Wednesday, 12 December 2007

lavender crème brulée - almost

SHF#38 the proof is in the pudding - with a Tartelette tutorial

It's been ages since I participated in Sugar High Friday, and this month's theme - the proof is in the pudding - chosen by Zorra of Kochtopf, is just up my street. Also, for my birthday way back in September my auntie gave me a nifty little blowtorch (and she even smuggled a can of gas lighter refill stuff to go with it in her luggage on Eurostar!). Which, shame on me, I hadn't used yet. Although S had a jolly good time playing around with the torch already. What can I say: boys, gadgets, and flames - an irresistible combination.

Crème brulée was on Kochtopf's approved pudding list, so crème brulée it would be. Somehow it's one of those things I've never made before, even though it seems dead simple. Maybe because it's I'm not utterly crazy about it - to me, there seems to be something not quite right about a fridge-cold dessert with a piping hot crust on top - or maybe it's because I had a few bad versions in the past, one of which made me really sick.

Anyways, I decided it was high time to put my little blowtorch to good use, finally use that lavender I still had lying around, and give crème brulée a go. The recipe I used was a Claudia Fleming one and very easy to make: basically a custard, which is then baked in the oven in a water bath covered with pierced aluminium foil. I was a bit nervous about the bain-marie - all the other times I tried similar things were complete disasters; whatever I put in there would completely boil over. And this time was no different. Luckily the cremes were not completely ruined and still salvageable. And they still tasted quite nice, so not all was lost. I was stumped though, and in need of professional advice. And who better to turn to then the one and only Tartelette! Who, very kindly, answered my questions and suddenly things seemed very clear.

Turns out that my crème brulée wasn't exactly crème brulée, more like a set custard with a layer of sugar over the top. See, you're not supposed to thicken the custard on the stove, which I did - you just pour the hot cream over the beaten egg yolks with sugar, let that mixture cool, skim off the foam on top and bake au-bain-marie. The water bath distributes the heat evenly and gently to the custard so that the eggs don't curdle. It is also a bit more forgiving if you let them cook a little bit longer than necessary. Tartelette top tip number one: 'check for that tiny giggle in the middle and remove them before they are completely done'.

Then there was that issue of my custards 'boiling over'. Enter Tartelette top tip number two: 'I am thinking the steam and heat created by the foil makes the cremes boil over. Also if you whisk your eggs too vigourously they will have a tendency to foam up a lot and create a soufflé motion.' and whisk vigourously I sure did. Funny how I almost never succeed in turning out a good soufflé, except when I'm trying to make a crème brulée.

And to finish her tutorial, Helen threw in a basic crème brulée recipe for free! Thanks so much for your advice, Helen. It is much appreciated and I will certainly give it one more try before I throw in the towel. If only because S would like to have another go playing around with that blow torch...

7 comments:

Bea said...

I love this flavor in creme brulee. Looks delicious! Perfect for a snowy day.

zorra said...

For me it looks perfect. And I love the idea to add lavender.
Thank you for joining SHF 38.

Brilynn said...

I'm glad you got over your fear of creme brulee because this looks amazing!

Tartelette said...

Yeah!!!! It worked! It looks wonderful and I really wish I had been there to sample it. Next time I come this side of the pond for sure!! The pictures are gorgeous!

Ann said...

It's beautiful! I love that first photo and will expect to see it served that way in a restaurant soon!

Ann at Redacted Recipes

Jo. said...

Lavender creme brulee is my very favourite. Fantastic photos :-D

sara said...

ANTIGUA in Caracas, Venezuela serves one up...it's one of the only two reasons I go. (The other being a mascarpone-truffle focaccia that's to die for.)