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Crème Brulée Day
Crème brulée is without a doubt my favourite dessert. I have encountered many different versions of it, from lavender crème brulée in a chi-chi London resto to chai crème brulée at the sadly missed Monsoon formerly at Main & Broadway, but for me none of these creative efforts quite beats the classic creamy, crunchy original.
Having said that, certain 365 Foods bloggers recently sampled an excellent crème brulée at the delightful Café Barcelona (http://www.cafebarcelona.ca/menu.php) on Granville Street (I have to give a shout out here to their amazing Catalan-influenced tapas menu, in particular the bruschetta-like bread with tomato, which boggled the mind and tongue in its simple deliciousness!). Their brulée is called Crema Catalana and is flavoured with lemon and cinnamon.
The earliest known reference to this delectable dessert is in François Massialot’s 1691 cookbook. With their usual talent for reducing haute cuisine to limp broccoli, the early eighteenth century English called it "burnt cream." A version was introduced at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1879 with the college arms "impressed on top of the cream with a branding iron.”
You are supposed to cook the cream in ramekins in a bain marie, and I confess I did not tackle it, being on the fly from Toronto and New York and in the middle of several conferences! Oh, and I don’t have a torch handy – who does?? Can you use a lighter?
So the pic is from Café Barcelona, and in consideration for those of you with time to experiment, here’s the easiest recipe I could find:
Crème Brulée (from Alton Brown):
* 1 quart heavy cream
* 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
* 1 cup vanilla sugar, divided
* 6 large egg yolks
* 2 quarts hot water
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and reserve for another use.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the creme brulée is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Remove the creme brulée from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup vanilla sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow the creme brulée to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.