Caramel crème brûlée

There are perhaps few French desserts more iconic than crème brûlée, although apparently the actual origins of this dish (France or Britain) are still disputed. It is one of my favourites–nothing like the sound of a little spoon tapping the top of that caramelized crust, a joy so well-depicted in Amélie. This one is actually a variant of the “traditional” crème brûlée, as it incorporates caramelized sugar into the custard.

Recipe

from Bon Appetit Desserts
Serves 6 

1/2 cup plus 6 tsp sugar
1 tbsp water
2 cups heavy whipping cream
5 large egg yolks
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 300 F. Place six 1/2 cup ramekins in a pan. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tbsp water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber colour, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 5 minutes. Slowly add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously); stir over low heat until any caramel bits dissolve and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat. Cool slightly.

Combine egg yolks, vanilla and salt in medium metal bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until mixture is pale in colour, about 3 minutes. Gradually add cream mixture and beat until blended. Divide mixture among ramekins. Add enough hot water to baking pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Bake until custards are just set in center, about 45 minutes. Remove ramekins from water; cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

Sprinkle each custard with 1 tsp of remaining sugar. Using kitchen torch, melt sugar until deep amber colour (alternatively use broiler. Place ramekins on rimmed baking sheet. Broil until sugar melts and is deep amber color, about 3 minutes). Refrigerate custards until topping hardens, at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours before serving.

Musings

A few notes on preparation: We forgot to cover the custards when chilling overnight. After a trial run with the blow-torch, we decided to add more than just a tsp of sugar to top the custard. It was probably closer to 2-3 tsp to get a nice even coat. The custard filled our two large crème brûlée ramekins and 3 1/2 cup ramekins.

The top caramelized beautifully…this perfect, crunchy, sugary crust that broke and gave way to a sinfully, silkily sweet custard underneath. Great flavour and texture and a pretty presentation. David noted that the blow torch was a bit tricky at first (to caramelize but not burn), but eventually he got the hang of it. The sugar that was incorporated into the custard didn’t actually caramelize in the pan–it basically bubbled and crystallized, at which point we took it off as David was worried about it burning into his pan. Not sure why it didn’t caramelize, but it tasted good in the custard nonetheless. Also, the recipe says you can refrigerate up 2 hours before serving, and they’re not kidding. The sugar crust ends up becoming soggy over night, so it’s definitely a dish to eat all of right away. Bon appetit indeed!

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