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August 24, 2005

Triangulating the Recipe

Still using the recipe for Creme Brulee that I found in our Best Recipe cookbook, I took another shot at preparing the dessert. Last time, the centers were downright soupy, so I knew that with our oven, at least, I would need to either cook longer or hotter. Since I was using a bain marie, I felt that longer was needed (since the bain marie is supposed to stabilize the cooking temperature at 212 fahrenheit, boiling water temperature).

Our oven runs about 20 degrees hotter than the dial indicates, as measured with an oven thermometer. Last time, I set the oven to around 255, as the recipe suggested 275 degrees. What difference would this make, if the bain marie limits the cooking custard to 212 degrees? I theorized that (1) the tops of the custard are still exposed to the full heat of the oven, and (2) the water bath gets pulled toward the boiling point earlier the higher the oven temperature is. So this time, I set the oven to 275 (making the actual temperature around 295 degrees) and put the bain marie into the oven to preheat, rather than pouring hot water into the bain marie when adding the ramekins. This way, when I added the ramekins, the water would already be close to the boiling point, and the custard would be exposed to the full temperature from the start.

I put the ramekins in and started with the specified 45 minutes. When I checked, the centers were very liquid. So I set the timer for another ten minutes. The centers were still liquid, but I wasn't sure if they were too liquid, so I set the timer for another ten minutes. I should have been watching, but I just waited for the timer. When I checked this time, the custards were rock solid, no jelly motion at all. Oops. I took them out, let them reach room temperature and refrigerated them.

The next day I took two out and layered the brown sugar on top. Into the broiler they went. You're supposed to broil them two to three minutes, until the sugar is carmelized. I got distracted and let them run a full three minutes. One turned out okay, the other got carbonized, rather than carmelized. But the custard tasted great! The texture was more akin to cheesecake than custard. But at least it was not runny.

So I have to try one more time (triangulate, triangulate!). This time I used an oven set to 275 (295) and a preheated bain marie, and cooked a total of 1 hour, 5 minutes. Forty-five minutes was way too little, and the latter was a bit too much. Where in the middle to set it this time? I'm really stuck. The difference in cooking time is twenty minutes, so split down the middle I should add ten minutes. But the custard still looked really liquid at 55 minutes. Would it have coooked through on residual heat when I pulled the bain marie out of the oven? Or would I have still had a liquid center, albeit smaller? Maybe I'm gonna try this two more times...

Posted by dpwakefield at August 24, 2005 09:46 PM


How about triangulating with different recipes?

Like this one: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/recipe_views/views/108588

Oven temp: 325
Cooking time: 35 minutes

Posted by: Pascale Soleil at August 25, 2005 09:46 AM