Crème brûlée – Serves 4
This French dessert means ‘scorched cream’ as the sugar on the top is burned.
300ml double cream
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
3 egg yolks
15g caster sugar
15g demerara or granulated sugar
- Preheat the oven to 150°C/Gas 2 and put 2 small ramekins in a roasting tin half filled with water – called a bain marie.
- Warm the cream and vanilla essence in a small saucepan.
- Put the yolks and caster sugar in a bowl and mix in the warm cream.
- Pour the custard into 4 ramekins and bake in the bain marie until set – about 30 minutes.
Cool and chill.
- Scatter the tops with demerara sugar and use the blow torch to caramelise the sugar.
- Hold the flame 5 cm away from the sugar at a 45° angle. The sugar caramelises, turns brown and bubbles. The caramelised sugar becomes crisp when you cut it with a spoon.
The science bit
Eggs are used to set the custards in crème caramel and crème brûlée.
On heating the protein in the egg denatures, coagulates and sets forming a matrix structure which holds the milk or cream in place.
Gentle cooking using the water bath (bain marie) lets the egg proteins set evenly through the custard.
If you cook the custards on too high a temperature, the egg proteins set, shrink and curdle the mixture. This happens to scrambled egg. So your custards will have holes in them and be tough if they are cooked too long and at too high a temperature. This is called syneresis.