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September 19, 2005

Creme Brulee!

After receiving positive feedback on my fourth batch of creme brulee at Tom's gathering, I thought I'd write down the specifics of the recipe and how I modified it. This will serve as well as a placeholder I can point Max to, since she expressed an interest in the recipe. Credit where credit is due: the original recipe comes from The Best Recipe (pages 525-526), one of the many fine books from the editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine. I highly recommend this book, their magazine, and their television show, America's Test Kitchen. What follows is that recipe, modified over four trials, to get the results which resemble the dessert I had at McCormick and Schmick's.

I have four ramekins, each holding between 6 and 7 ounces (bought by my wife at Fred Meyer's). This turns out to be just right for the amount of custard produced by this recipe. Find an oven safe pan that will hold the four ramekins and enough water to reach the halfway point on each ramekin. Place a small dish towel in the bottom of the pan, and fill with hot water. Place into an oven and preheat to 295 degrees (the book calls for 275). Let the oven reach equilibrium.

In a large bowl, place six egg yolks. I save the egg whites in a separate container and make a fried egg sandwich the same day as my prep work. Whisk the egg yolks by hand for a couple of minutes. I'm not sure why this helps, but it does. Next, add six tablespoons of sugar. Whisk the sugar in until it is evenly distributed. Finally, add one and one half cups of cold heavy whipping cream. Whisk till there is a bit of air in the mixture, but don't try to whip it. When the mix is even, place it in the four ramekins (you can butter the ramekins with unsalted butter if you want to. The recipe calls for this, but I discovered that it didn't seem to matter}.

Gently lower the ramekins into the water bath, called a bain marie. Set your timer for 45 minutes. When the time has elapsed, check the ramekins. The mixture should still be loose in the middle. If it is not, you've overcooked it and should stop. If it is very loose, rotate the pan and continue cooking. In my oven, I found that an additional 15 minutes, for a total of an hour, seemed to give the best results.

While you're waiting for the custard, get out a cookie sheet, and line it with aluminum foil. Place four tablespoons of brown sugar on the foil, and use the tines of a fork to gently separate the sugar and spread it about the cookie sheet. When your cooking time is over, remove the bain marie, but leave the custards in the water until it gets close to room temperature. Turn off the oven and place the cookie sheet into the oven for twenty minutes. This dries out the brown sugar.

When the custard has approached room temperature, remove it from the water, and cover each ramekin with cling wrap. Place in the refrigerator overnight. Remove the brown sugar from the oven, and scrape it all into a sealable plastic sandwich bag. Roll a rolling pin over the bag until the brown sugar is a fine powder. Set aside until tomorrow.

The next day:

When you are serving dinner, sprinkle equal amounts of brown sugar evenly over the tops of the custards, and place the ramekins on a cookie sheet. Set your oven on broil and place the cookie sheet directly under the broiler. What happens next depends on your oven, how thickly you've spread the brown sugar, and whether the gremlins have visited overnight. Anywhere from one to three minutes will be required to caramelize the brown sugar. Take it out too soon and you get a gritty agglomerate on top of your custard. Leave it too long and you get carbonized sugar, which is not generally appetizing. Once you remove the ramekins from the oven, give them a couple of minutes to cool, then put them back in the refrigerator for thirty or forty minutes, to really crystallize the sugar. Then you can serve them. Be aware that if you leave the sugar capped ramekins in the frig more than a couple of hours, the custard will begin to absorb the sugar and make it soggy.

That's all I recall that went into fine tuning the recipe to work with my equipment. I fully expect that your experience will be different from mine, so be prepared to try a few times rather than giving up and assuming I've sabotaged the recipe to retain trade secrets.

Posted by dpwakefield at September 19, 2005 08:44 PM


WAH!!!!! ARIGATO, DON! I loved it!!! I can't wait to try it out. Thanks so much for the detailed information.


Posted by: max at September 21, 2005 08:48 PM

Thanks for the recipe!

Posted by: ayagi at September 21, 2005 08:52 PM

Just sharing the love, guys. I hope it turns out good for you too!

Posted by: Donald Wakefield at September 21, 2005 09:26 PM