A Year of New – Week 11: Crème Brûlée

Where: Home
Cost: The cost of ingredients (some of which I already had in my pantry) and four more Emile Henry ramekins to increase my set to six.

It was last year that I rediscovered the simple wonder of crème brûlée during a night out with friends at a restaurant in Victoria. I’ve had it several times since then at different restaurants (culiminating a few weeks ago at Il Terrazo, while my parents were visiting – a delicious trio of different flavoured crème brûlées) but had never thought about trying to make it myself.

A quick search of the Internet made me realize that making crème brûlée is actually a lot easier than it looks. When my husband reminded me that we have a small propane torch that I could use to flame the tops with, I knew this was something I could attempt for my A Year of New project this year.

Just to be sure, I consulted the Practically Edible website to make sure that our non-kitchen blowtorch was OK to use in the kitchen. It was. While on the Internet, I stumbled upon the Queen of Crème Brûlée’s website. I didn’t have a recipe in mind yet to use so I decided to use hers. I mean who should know crème brûlée better than the Queen of Crème Brûlée?

Surprisingly, the Queen’s recipe was not that great. Either the recipe was off or I must have done something wrong as my crème brûlée turned out more like scrambled egg custard and it was way overdone. I knew when those six ramekins came out of the oven looking way too browned that I would have to attempt another batch. They still tasted good, but they weren’t the consistency of crème brûlée.
Next I turned to the helpful website of Cooking Light. I use Cooking Light recipes frequently and have found a lot of winning recipes through them over the years that I return to again and again. Unfortunately, their recipe called for skim milk powder in addition to 2% milk (instead of the heavy cream suggested in the Queen’s recipe) and I realized after I had mixed the ingredients together that my skim milk powder had gone off. My husband and I joked that the result of this batch of crème brûlée tasted like ass, but it was more like sweaty gym socks. Not good.

Another failed attempt meant that I had to find a third recipe. It occurred to me to turn to the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook that I’ve had for years, and to which I turn for “basics” kind of recipes (like pie crust) quite often. Lo and behold, a crème brûlée recipe beckoned from its pages. It worked! This was the first batch that had a good-tasting batter and then came out of the oven looking right too. Hurray!

This meant I could put the propane torch into action (a step I hadn’t even progressed to with the other two failed batches) and I was a little bit nervous about using it. After my husband showed me how to use it (again, it looked easier than I thought it would be) I got to fire it up myself. It was fun passing its flame over the surface to caramelize the sugar on top. In fact, my husband thought it looked like so much fun that he wanted to do the next one!

We let the crème brûlées sit for a while to harden the top and then cracked our way in with spoons. Yum! After three batches of crème brûlée (which amounted to 16 ramekins-worth) over a period of several days, we had finally hit pay dirt. It was really delicious.

“Is this the recipe we’ll stick with?” my husband asked as we dove into our second crème brûlée ramekin each the next night. Hmm, I had to think about that. Ours was good, but was it the best? I told him about a book I’d seen at the library the day before with over 50 recipes of crème brûlée in it. Although it could be something to tackle in the future (ala Julie Powell of “Julie & Julia” current fame), I’m just not sure my waistline could take it!

3 thoughts on “A Year of New – Week 11: Crème Brûlée

  1. What a saga! And what size are you now? Or have you started practicing for that run again?
    Now I know what dessert we'll get when we next visit.


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