ou could say that crème brûlée [krεm bryle] is a simple dessert, just another vanilla flavored custard, no big deal. However, its crunchy, golden caramel top makes this sweet treat somewhat different, certainly elegant and sophisticated. Despite the fact that the name “crème brûlée” sounds and is doubtlessly French (when translated it means “burnt cream”), the origin of this delicious dessert might not be French at all!
Crème Brûlée Origin
I have already mentioned in my post about that even ancient Romans had a sort of custard in their recipe books. However, it wasn’t baked, and it certainly didn’t have caramelized sugar on the top. English source, on the other hand, the Trinity College in Cambridge, England, to be precise, mentions “burnt cream” or “Trinity cream” that was allegedly invented there. In Spanish Catalonia, there is another famous dessert similar to crème brûlée – “Crema Catalana”. Unlike its French relative that contains the same quantity of milk and cream, Crema Catalana is made of mostly milk that makes it lighter. Crema Catalana also contains a thickener – corn starch or flour, and it is flavored with orange peel and cinnamon. There is one more difference – Crema Catalana is cooked on a stovetop and poured into shallow dishes – cazuelas, and the sugar on top is caramelized with a special caramelizing iron. Although there are differences between these two delights, there is a belief that Crema Catalana is the antecedent of crème brûlée. Whatever the truth is, it seems that the luscious combination of silky, cold vanilla custard and hot, crunchy caramel always easily finds its way to the hearts and stomachs of epicures all over the world.
What is Crème Brûlée
Crème brûlée is custard made of milk, heavy cream, egg yolks and sugar, usually flavored with vanilla bean. It is baked in a bain-marie, in shallow dishes at a low temperature until the cream is set. Crème brûlée is then cooled in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. Just before serving, cold crème brûlée is sprinkled with caster sugar and that sugar is caramelized with a kitchen blowtorch or under a broiler.
How to make Crème Brûlée
- Warm up the milk, cream and vanilla just to a boil. In another bowl whisk the egg yolks with the sugar.
- Slowly pour the hot liquid over the yolks stirring well until it combines. Run the mixture through a strain, pour it into a clean bowl and leave it to cool down.
- Put the liquid in the crème brûlée dishes. Be careful that there are no bubbles at the surface of the cream. If you see any bubbles, use your torch carefully to burst those and only after the last one ‘pops’ carry on with the procedure.
- Put the crème brûlée dishes in a pan filled with water halfway, and bake at 150°C (300°F) until the cream is set, for about 30 minutes. Leave them to cool down, preferably overnight.
- Just before serving, sprinkle the surface of the cream with granulated sugar and caramelize it with a blowtorch.
10 Ways How to Flavor Crème Brûlée
- Infuse orange and lemon peel in a cold mixture of milk and cream overnight. If you are in a hurry, make a hot infusion: heat the milk and cream along with citrus peel and set aside for 30 minutes. Strain and continue with making crème brûlée.
- Flavor your crème brûlée with herbs or spices: mint leaves, star anis, cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom or tonka bean.
- Add nut paste to crème brûlée before baking, it will be absolutely delicious!
- If you are caramel fan, make caramel crème brûlée! Make nice dark caramel out of 100g (3.5oz) of sugar. Pour warmed mixture of milk and cream over hot caramel and continue making your crème brûlée like described.
- Make fruit flavored crème brûlée: instead of part of milk, add fruit puree to the mixture.
- Put some fruit chunks on the bottom of your dishes and pour vanilla creme brûlée over the fruit. Bake all together. Soft fruit, vanilla custard and crunchy caramel – now, that simply can’t be bad, right?
- Flavor your crème brûlée with a liqueur of your choice.
- Add coffee extract to your crème brûlée!
- Don’t forget chocolate, it is always a great choice! Add some melted chocolate to the basic recipe.
- Add some wine to your crème brûlée, it will make it unique!
Enjoy the fact that you don’t need any expensive equipment in order to prepare this silky indulgence! All you need is a few porcelain dishes and a chef’s torch. And believe me, once you make your first crème brûlée, you will realize that a look at your thrilled guests cracking the caramel top and happily munching the dessert is worth all the effort!
Well, what do you think about this post?
I read and really appreciate all the comments, even though I do not always have the time to respond to each one. So – keep me in the loop and try to create some sweetness every day because – Sweetness is happiness!!