In the world of well-known international desserts, one of the best loved and popular for following a formal dinner is crème brulee. The reason for this is its lightness of texture, and the fact that it sweetens the mouth, without being overly indulgent. This French dessert features in most French restaurants, since the emphasis of the meal is on the courses that precede the dessert. The dessert is the “icing on the cake” and intended to give the diner a wonderful taste of something extra special.
The difficulty comes when learning to produce this dessert for the first time. The investment in a kitchen blow torch will be a wise one. Although crème brulee can be produced with a broiler, the torch does the trick French style and gives an amazingly crusty finish, as well as the contrast between hot and cold sweetness.
Choosing the right sugar
If you use granulated sugar, the results you will obtain will be disappointing. As any French chef knows, the sugar used needs to be finer than this, though still white. Castor sugar or fine sugar is certainly the choice in France. This proves much easier to manipulate into place and is perfect for the torch to caramelize easily and evenly.
Preparing the crème brulee
The crème brulee is prepared and placed into ramekins in advance. This process is simple and an easy recipe for the crème can be found here, from Martha Stewart.
Preparing the crust for the crème brulee
Sugar is placed on the top of the prepared ramekins, and it will be noticed straight away that this will not be even. Take the ramekin into your hand and lightly shake it, so that the coating of sugar is even all over the crème preparation.
Preparing to flambé the sugar
Be sure that you have an oven mitt or that you have a heatproof cloth, as this will be needed to turn the ramekin as you work. Light the torch and work on the sugar coating until it turns a great shade of caramel, moving the ramekin around gently while you flambé the rest of the sugar coating. There should be no burns, just simply an even golden color.
A kitchen blow torch is a good investment and can also be used for meringue dishes, to give an extra crisp finish. The best thing about crème brulee is that the first crackle produced by the spoon of the person eating it is what determines your success at producing one of France’s major desserts correctly. The sugar should crackle, and lead to the smooth creamy custard preparation beneath it. To get even better results, leave the crisping up of the sugar until just before serving the dish, having placed the ramekins into a cool shelf in the fridge. This ensures that the combination of warmth and coolness is perfect when the crème brulees are served to guests.
Other methods may have been used such as grilling or broiling, though the best results come from that extra bit of attention paid individually to the dessert using a hand blow torch. This really is the best way to create the crust that people love, and which reminds them of that sunny afternoon in the French Riviera. Even if they haven’t been, at least they will have had a taste of what French cuisine at its best is all about.