One of the awesome presents we received for the act of getting married was this blow torch.
I have wanted a blow torch for the kitchen for a long time, mostly to make crème brûlées, so that’s the first thing I did with it. I’ve enjoyed a tradition in recent years of making a ridiculous dessert to top off Christmas dinner (Twelve Layer Mocha Cake, anyone?) so I was prepared for a long and complicated process to make the perfect custard, which I preferred (pre brûléeing) to refer to as a “crème” and then torch it to perfection.
I was surprised by how easy and, well, simple it was to make what’s, in my opinion, an almost perfect dessert. I went to Epicurious for my recipe, using the classic vanilla crème brûléeto start.
Making the crèmes was very, very easy. I used to be intimidated by recipes that called for vanilla beans, split lengthwise or otherwise, but I started using them about a year ago when making caramels and they are really quite simple to deal with. I buy mine at Penzeys, mostly because I don’t know where else to get them, and a pack of three beans lasts for a long time. To use them, all you have to do is cut them in half lengthwise with a sharp knife and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. They look like a cross between dirt and alien eggs and clump together in a cluster. And if they ask at the store, you probably need Madagascar vanilla, not the other kind.
I had to bake my crèmes much longer than the recipe called for (closer to 60 minutes as opposed to the 20 to 25 minutes) but then I just slapped them in the fridge and took them to my parents’ house the next night for Christmas dinner.
This is what the pre-brûléed crèmes looked like.
It took us a lot longer than I would like to admit to figure out how to use the torch for the first time.
The gas goes where?
But, paradoxically, that just makes me love the torch more. It was so difficult to get it lit the first time that I felt a lot safer about storing it in our apartment when we weren’t using it. Eventually we got the hang of it and put a tablespoon of “sanding sugar” per ramekin. I wasn’t able to find sanding sugar at the co-op, so I just bought the roughest looking sugar they had. As a bonus, you can buy as much or as little as you need, so I just got a small baggie of brown granules and hoped not to get pulled over on the way home.
I swear it’s sugar!
It worked great! I’d never torched a crème before, but it was super easy and fairly obvious when each one was done.
These were so good. The combination of the burnt hot crust and the cold creamy custard… I really do not understand why every restaurant in the world doesn’t have these on their dessert menu. They’re easy to make, don’t require expensive ingredients, can be stored in the fridge until the moment they’re needed, and taste amazing.
Since Christmas, I’ve also experimented with other flavors of crème brûlées, most recently a Coffee-Caramel variety. It was good, but I messed up the caramel so it didn’t quite have the flavor I was looking for.
That giant clump is really not supposed to exist.
I look forward to finding other things I can burn with my torch! If anyone has any favorite recipes involving fire, let me know.