Bridget Moloney is a blogger for Bon Appetít's Project Recipe.
Growing up my family hosted French exchange students. It was a fabulous
part of my childhood. They introduced me to Nutella and Petit Bateau and in exchange I went to the Hard Rock Café more than one ever needs too.
During one meal at a restaurant with our first exchange student, Guillaime, I was thrilled to discover that a French dessert was being offered:
"Crème brûlée!" I said.
"What?" He asked.
"What are you saying?"
My mother, a French speaker, tried.
My father and Francophile sister attempted.
The waiter piped up, "CRÈME BRÛLÉE".
Guillaime did a href=http://french.about.com/library/weekly/aa020901g.htm>Gallic shrug.
We ordered it anyway and when it arrived at the table Guillaime took one look and said, "OH! Crème brûlée!"
The French. Bof.
This week I made crème brûlée for the first time as part of Bon Appetít's Project Recipe, and let me tell you, this is a recipe to knock your socks off.
It's creamy, it's coffee, it's caramel—and for those reasons, I would recommend serving it in very small ramekins if you want avoid inducing a diabetic coma or a caffeine anxiety attack. I know that sounds like feint praise, which is not my intention, I'm just warning you this is a very luxurious dessert. I ate two.
The first step is infusing cream with coffee. Crush the coffee beans in a plastic bag, then introduce some cream and bring to a simmer. I used Peet's French Roast (one of my favorites), and I beat the beans with a wooden spoon (worked great for those of us that don't have mallets). After the cream simmers, it gets to hang out for a while while you make caramel. Here is where I got into big trouble.
Caramel: Round 2
I mixed up my sugar and water and watched excitedly. Nothing happened. After seven minutes the syrup was gently boiling but no where near "deep amber," which is the point at which it is removed from the heat and the recipe continues on it's way to deliciousness. So, I did something stupid—I decided to turn my back on the stove.
Another tangent about my childhood: once, on an Oregon beach, my family
delighted in a sign that read "SNEAKER WAVES: DO NOT TURN YOUR BACK."
This was sneaker caramel. All of sudden, while I was enjoying Facebook,
a terrible smell filled the apartment. The caramel was BLACK. Like black lava! It was boiling and crackling and smoking. The apartment filled with visible smoke. We could have done the closing scene of Casablanca, that's how atmospheric it was. I took the black lava caramel off the stove, where it made squeaking and popping noises. I'm not kidding.
How to Make Caramel
I started a new batch of caramel. Chastened, I stood watching it until it turned a deep amber and studied bonappetit.com's helpful href="http://www.bonappetit.com/tipstools/slideshows/2009/03/how_to_carameliz
e_sugar">slideshow on making caramel. I added the cream/half and half it called for, strained the coffee-infused cream into it, and then set to making the eggy part of the custard. It was quite simple: just beat some eggs, sugar and a little bit of salt, and then beat that into the non-lava caramel, coffee-cream, cream mixture. Then I strained that into a large measuring cup and poured it into ramekins.
The crème brûlée bakes in a
h">water bath for about 60 minutes. Mine were just set at an hour. The little custards then sit in the refrigerator for at least three hours. You should know that because you might have been getting excited about eating them right away. You can't.
After they had completely chilled I sprinkled one teaspoon of raw sugar on them and used my (borrowed) kitchen torch (thank you to my cousin) to create that crackly, hard, best part of the crème brûlée. The smell of burning sugar did, unfortunately, remind me of the burnt
lava-caramel. But the taste—oh the taste—reminded me of nothing but how delicious crème Brûlée can be.
"OH! Crème Brûlée".