Well, what can I say… Of course I couldn’t help but pinch up my face at the discovery of this particular recipe in Inspector Hrouda’s shop, especially after having put quite a dent into the surrounding area’s Ooze population prior to visiting her. About a nanosecond later though, my questioning my fellow Asuran’s sense of taste was cut short – the only possible, non-threatening and in no way cringe-in-disgust-worthy real-world counterpart popped into my head and basically short-circuited my sweet-sins defense mechanisms.
While I thankfully still haven’t grown a sweet tooth, there’s one dessert I’ve always had the hots for: a decent, caramel-crusted Crème Brûlée. Suddenly the idea of an oozy custard didn’t seem as nightmarish anymore~!
Recently, as in: over the course of the last couple of years, every restaurant worth its front door has a Crème Brûlée listed on their dessert menu. For reasons far beyond me, about 90% of those involve the same Orange-and-Dark-Chocolate combo however, and the ones I couldn’t resist ordering had that unnatural, soapy and intensely bitter zing of overpowering orange aromas that have, in my book, no business in a dish like this. So, at some point, I gave up on the idea of ordering a dessert at restaurants again and went through several experiment sessions at home, on a quest to hammer out my favorites – aside from the true, classic vanilla crème – and various methods of preparation.
While I was at it, I also experimented around with several calorie-conscious recipes, but after a lot of effort, I have to say… no. Just no. Not that all of them were bad crèmes per se, but if you’re driven by a raging need for a decent Crème Brûlée, none of the fat-/cream- or sugar-free versions will truly satisfy you. At least they didn’t do it for me. So, today’s deliciously sinful end to a meal isn’t exactly a posterchild for healthy sweets, but it’s not like it’s meant to be devoured in bucketloads every day~!
Anyways, in order to ease into the whole subject of all things Crème Brûlée, I’ve picked one of the simpler recipes from my favorites-collection for todays Sweet dish – there will be more coming your way in the future, but I had to start somewhere! Here’s what you need to do to end up with 4 large (~250ml) Ramekins filled with gold-topped yum~
The Amarula Crème Brûlée
1 Vanilla Pod
50 ml Amarula – Bailey’s or Kahlua both work brilliantly in this as well, the fruity Amarula is just my personal favorite~
6 Medium-Sized Egg Yolks
110g Fine Caster Sugar
Brown Sugar for the dot on the I – about 1 Tbsp per Ramekin, depending on their size
1) Preheat your oven to 140°C and get a waterbath-setup going.
2) Place your ramekins in the fridge before getting started – by pouring the Crème into chilled ramekins later, you’ll stop the cooking process right away, keeping the mixture from gooping up in the center.
3) Pour the milk and cream into a small pot and set it onto medium-low heat.
4) Score the vanilla pod with the tip of a very sharp knife, opening it lengthwise without cutting all the way through.
5) Add it to the pot and gently heat the cream through, infusing it with the delicious vanilla aroma.
6) In case you wish to take the vanilla up a notch, remove the seeds from the pod using the back of your knife and add both to the cream separately.
7) As soon as pretty little wisps of aromatic steam start curling up from the pot, take it off the heat and set it aside. You want the cream hot to absorb the vanilla but not simmering or even boiling.
8) Add the egg yolks to a large mixing bowl, add the sugar and have at it with an electrical whisking-gizmo until the mixture is smooth and glossy – to check if the sugar has dissolved completely, dip a fingertip into the mix and rub the dot against your thumb. If it feels like a… well, silky sheen of cream, you’re golden~ If you detect some stubborn grains of sugar in there, put the beaters back to work for a couple of mins longer.
9) Hunt down the vanilla pod in your cream mixture and remove it.
10) Set the pot back onto the heat, stir in the Amarula and bring the mixture up to a simmer.
11) Set your mixing bowl holding the egg mixture onto your waterbath.
12) Stir 3-4 spoonfuls of the hot cream into your egg mixture to level out the temperatures a little bit.
13) Set the speed of your beaters to low and slowly incorporate the cream into the egg mixture. Take your time with this and make extra sure the components are well combined in the end.
14) Much like chocolate, this mixture tends to split when it gets too hot, so make sure the bottom of your bowl doesn’t touch the surface of the water.
15) Keep whisking the custard until it starts to thicken – it should slowly turn into a creamy-vanilla-sauce-kind of consistency.
16) If you have a kitchen probe or candy thermometer at hand, pop it into the center of the custard and keep an eye out for the magic temperature of 75°C.
17) By the way, if you’re an experienced creator of custards and are in possession of a really good pot you know how to handle in this scenario, you can skip the waterbath. Just be extra careful with the temperatures to keep the Crème from turning into scrambled eggs.
18) Retrieve your chilled ramekins and quickly strain the mixture through a sieve before dividing it into the ramekins.
19) Pop the ramekins into a brownie tin or a similar kind of high-rimmed oven-proof pan or tin and pour enough hot water into the tin, around the ramekins, until it reaches up to 2/3 of the way up to the rims.
20) Place the tray on the lower rack of your preheated oven – make sure the fan’s turned off – and bake the Crèmes for 65-75 mins.
21) Have an eye or a very careful fingertip on them from time to time once you got past the 1hr-mark – they’re ready to be taken out of the oven once the custard has set around the edges but is still soft and gooey in the center.
22) Leave the ramekins to cool off completely while they’re still sitting in their tub.
23) Once the water reaches room temperature, move the ramekins into the fridge for at least 2 hours, best overnight.
24) Once you’re ready to serve, evenly sprinkle 1-1 ½ Tbsp of brown sugar on top of the Crèmes and torch them with a Crème Brûlée burner to melt and caramelize them into the signature crispy top no Crème Brûlée can exist without~
25) Quickly move the torch across the surface, keeping it at around 3-5cm distance – this depends on the size of your flame. If the sugar grains burn into black’ish dots before they melt into the intended sheet of sugary glass, move the flame away and move it across the surface a bit faster.
26) If you don’t have a kitchen torch at hand, fire up your oven and place them under the grill for a couple of minutes until the sugar caramelizes. Pop the ramekins back into the fridge once you’re satisfied with the crust to stop the custard from clogging up due to the rude oven-treatment.
27) And there you go, one serving of silky smooth sin, hidden beneath a golden, crackling skin~