Tag Archives: cream

Creme Brulee

27 Feb

What is your favorite dessert? I am not much of a sweets person, but I really do love me some creme brulee. And I was shocked to find that I hadn’t yet shared my award-winning creme brulee recipe here.

creme brulee

A number of years ago, I was talking to my colleague and fellow foodie friend, Randy about the creme brulee they had at Kincaids and I told him that *I* could make a better creme brulee than they do. I think their proportion of custard to topping is not quite right and their topping still has crystallized sugar bits in it. He claimed that he could also make a better one than theirs and then challenged me to a creme brulee-off. So we, along with quite a few other colleagues, had a creme brulee contest at work. There was quite a bit of excitement around the contest and while Randy had some technical difficulties in making his creme brulee, the two of us came in first and second.

I took first place in the contest.

This is something that I remind Randy of every once in awhile…because he’s an amazing cook and would beat me at anything else, if I ever chose to challenge him. But just this one time, I won. While we were talking about the problems which led to him losing to me, he told me which recipe he uses. It’s this one right here – the same recipe I used. But his special secrets were to use vanilla bean and superfine sugar. And those just so happen to be the same two things I always make sure to use. So, while we worked independently of each other, we both used the exact same recipe with the exact same “secrets”. Take that as the highest endorsement for THE BEST creme brulee recipe.


Here’s the reason for the superfine sugar – it dissolves very quickly and completely, making for a creamy dessert, with great texture and without any crystallization in the custard. It also melts very well when making the burnt sugar topping so you get the great contrast of a cool, creamy custard and the crunchy, brittle burnt topping.

And the vanilla bean imparts such a great flavor, better than any vanilla extract can provide. Plus you get the tiny black vanilla seeds at the bottom of your custard, which to me makes it all the better.

So here’s how you make it.

Combine the cream, sugar and the sliced and scraped vanilla bean and seeds in a medium saucepan over medium heat.


While the cream is heating, separate your eggs


and whisk the yolks in a medium bowl or a glass measuring cup like I did here.


After the cream comes to a simmer, turn the burner to the lowest setting, put the lid on your pan and let the flavors infuse for 10 minutes. Then remove from the heat and strain the cream mixture.


You’ll want to whisk in a little bit of the hot cream mixture to the egg mixture to temper the eggs or keep the eggs from immediately scrambling when you add them to the hot cream.  So pour a little bit of the cream into the eggs, mix well, and then add a little more.


When the egg mixture is warmed up enough, pour it all into the hot cream.

hot cream

Mix it well, then pour it into the ramekins. I like to use the large glass measuring cups for all of this mixing and whisking and such, because it makes it a whole lot easier in the end to pour the custard into the ramekins.

filling the ramekins

My ramekins have a little ledge near the top that I use as a guide for how full they should be.

Into the pre-heated oven they go for about 30-35 minutes.


When they jiggle slightly, but are mostly firm, they are done. Remove them from the oven and let them cool until you can pick up the ramekins, then put them in the fridge to chill completely. Or if you live in Minnesota in February, you can put them outside on the patio for a few hours instead!

Now comes the fun part – pulling out the torch and burning the sugar!


Top the custard with about 1/2 a tablespoon of superfine sugar. You want to cover the entire top, but don’t want too deep of a layer of sugar.

sugar added

As you can see here, my super-fine sugar has clumped. And because I was too lazy to sift out the lumps, I left them in  and you’ll see that they all melted. But you could certainly be a better person than I and sift the sugar first.

Now, light your torch. Some of you may have those cute little hand-held creme brulee torches that have a gentle little flame…but I learned all about burning creme brulee in a restaurant where we had the industrial size torch, so I went to my local hardware store and got one of these for myself. And I love it!

the torch

Take your time and keep the flame about 2 inches away from the custard. You can leave your ramekin on the countertop and burn it that way, or you could live on the edge as I definitely do and pick it up and turn the custard while moving the flame around the top, gently melting and burning the sugar.






Once all the sugar has melted and is nice and dark, you’re done!

I like to burn all my creme brulee immediately before serving them. I think they taste best that way and it is also entertaining for the dinner guests. Sometimes, they want to learn to burn their own. Dinner AND a show!

Serve with fresh berries or tropical fruit like papaya or kiwi fruit.


Creme Brulee
Adapted from Epicurious
Serves 6


2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
5 large egg yolks

3 tablespoons sugar
Fresh berries or other fruit


Make custard:
Preheat oven to 325°F/160°C. Place six 3/4-cup ramekins in 9”x13″ pan and add 2-3 cups of hot water to the pan. The water should come halfway up the side of the ramekins.

Use small knife to split the vanilla bean the long way and scrape out the seeds. Mix the cream, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds in a heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and mixture just comes to a simmer. Cover the pan, reduce heat to very low and simmer gently for 10 minutes to infuse flavors. Then strain into a large measuring cup.

Whisk the yolks in a medium bowl until well blended. Gradually whisk in hot cream mixture just to blend. Pour that mixture back into the rest of the custard in the large measuring cup; pour equally among ramekins. Carefully transfer the pan to oven.

Bake custards until almost set in center when pans are gently shaken, about 30 – 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 30 minutes. Chill at least 3 hours in refrigerator.

Make burnt sugar topping:
Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of superfine sugar evenly over each custard. Working with 1 custard at a time, hold blowtorch so that flame is 2 inches above surface. Direct flame so that sugar melts and browns, about 2 minutes.

You can refrigerate until custards are firm again but topping is still brittle, at least 2 hours but no longer than 4 hours so that topping doesn’t soften. Garnish creme brulee with fruit and serve.


Mascarpone Semifreddo with Roasted Rhubarb

27 Jul

How perfect did Brenda’s Brazilian version of crème caramel look?

One of our readers asked for ice cream recipes PLUS I am looking after a house with very healthy rhubarb plants PLUS I discovered Spanish Moscato, a rich raisiny fortified sherry. That is how this dish came together.

The thing with making ice cream, is having a good enough churn. But a semifreddo is unchurned, and in fact, this one is uncooked also. It is in the peasy realm of easy.

This is simply some rhubarb roasted in the oven, alongside a semifreddo, made with whipped cream and Mascarpone cheese, flavoured with some of the sherry. In fact, you could try other liqueurs if the Moscato sherry isn’t sitting on your bench. Semifreddo has a slightly firmer texture to ice cream.

I was experimenting with the recipe as I went, so I haven’t taken ‘how to’ photos this time. It is such a simple recipe, you’ll be fine!

Moscato Mascarpone Semifreddo
serves 6

300ml (1/2 pint) cream suitable for whipping (thickened cream in Australia)
135g (4.5oz) icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
250g (a small tub) Mascarpone cheese
2 1/2 tbs Moscato sherry (You could experiment with other sweet syrupy liqueurs)

Whip the cream with the icing sugar until soft peaks form, then fold through the Mascarpone and sherry.

Line a tray, that will fit in your freezer, with baking paper (I used a slice baking tray). Spread the cream mixture in to an even layer on the paper. Cover with cling film and leave to freeze, overnight if possible, but 6 hours would be fine if it is thin like mine.


Roasted Rhubarb


500g (1 pound) rhubarb, leaves discarded.
80g (a bit under 3oz) caster sugar (superfine)
2 tbs water

Preheat the oven to 180/350.

Rinse the rhubarb, and cut in to identical length pieces. Place the rhubarb in to a baking tray, and sprinkle with the sugar and toss around a little to coat. Drizzle the water over and cover with foil.

Bake for 15 minutes, and then pull out of the oven and remove the foil. Carefully turn the pieces of rhubarb in the pan, so as not to break them. Spoon over the sugar and water which will have now started to dissolve. Put back in to the oven for another five minutes uncovered. It will be ready when it is tender to the prod of a knife, yet is still maintaining its shape.

Allow to cool a little before serving.


To assemble

Toast up some almond slivers in a dry pan over medium heat, being careful to move them around as they cook so they don’t burn. The time will depend on your pan and how hot it gets, but around five minutes. Take them off the heat when they are lightly golden.

Place the rhubarb on the plates, with a little of the syrupy juice. Cut the semifreddo in to triangular pieces with a hot chef’s knife, and place on the plate beside the rhubarb. Heat the knife by dunking it in a jug of hot water, and then quickly drying it with a tea towel.

Garnish with some of the freshly toasted almond slivers, and maybe a tiny sprig of mint.

There you go Kandis, an ‘ice cream’ recipe for you.

Over to you B… Don’t suppose it is rhubarb season in Minnesota?!

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Burnt Orange Caramel Sauce

28 May

This last week, three things happened to bring this dish together. I was in Bali for a wedding and over the dinner table I spent some time debating with the groom’s Nanna Val and cousin Kate, the ever important question of whether burnt caramel is better than sweet caramel. Before I left for Bali, my friend Karen (the uber wonderful cook you may remember from our ‘day of cooking’) made me panna cotta. Her panna cotta is like no other and I may have, once or a hundred times, expressed to her how much I love it when she makes it. I am subtle. Then B posts this incredible looking dessert with cumquats.  This is how things collided in my mind for me to start thinking about… burnt caramel with citrus alongside panna cotta.

Fortunately Karen was happy to come over and show me how she makes the panna cotta. And she does make it differently to the traditional method, mainly in that she doesn’t heat the cream. She thinks this keeps the taste cleaner and fresher. I made the sauce before she arrived.

The sauce…

is just freshly squeezed orange juice, sugar and some slices of orange.

I heated the sugar in a pan over medium heat. As I stirred, it melted, and then rapidly changed colour and frothed up. Perhaps my heat was too high, as it should take around seven minutes. I think it took me about 90 seconds.


Once it had reached a darkness I thought looked burnt enough, I took it off the heat and added the orange juice. It does spit a bit, so be careful. Also stir as you go. Because I was taking a photo, I got a few lumps so warmed it up slightly to melt them again.

I removed the pith and rind from the orange and then sliced the orange up finely. If you put the slices in to the warm sauce on low heat for a few minutes to allow them to macerate for a while, they will lose their acidic edge. Then I allowed the sauce and orange slices to cool.

And the panna cotta….

is cream (a little more than this one container), whole milk, caster sugar (superfine sugar), titanium grade gelatine leaf and vanilla bean.

We began by splitting a vanilla bean down the centre and scraping out the seeds. Both the seeds and the pod were added to the milk, and then heated until it just began to boil. Watch it the whole time as you don’t want it to over boil. The picture below shows when we took it off, just starting to bubble around the edge. We then set it aside to rest.

We soaked the gelatine leaf in cold water for around five minutes.

We then removed the vanilla pod from the warm milk, and added in the sugar, and then the gelatine leaves, which were squeezed out.

We warmed the milk mixture and stirred until the sugar and gelatine dissolved.

We put the cream in a bowl, and then we added a ladle full of the plain cream to the milk mixture and mixed to slightly reduce the temperature, then strained the milk mixture directly in to the bowl of cream. The straining made sure there are no gelatine lumps, or clumps of vanilla seeds.

We then stirred the mixture well. We were speeding the process, so we continued to stir the creamy mix until it began to thicken with our bowl of cream set over a bowl of ice. You do not need to do this if you make the panna cotta the day before and set it overnight, but if you make it only a couple of hours before you plan to eat it…

The mix was then ladled in to Dariole moulds on a tray, ready to slide in to the fridge. Dariole moulds in plastic like these ones are under a dollar apiece, and Karen likes them best for panna cotta as they slide out (relatively) easily.

When they had set, we ran a warmed knife around the inside of the moulds and inverted them on our plates. Then ladled on a little of the now cooled burnt orange caramel sauce and a slice of the orange.

Well hello there, deliciousness!

So now we have her secret recipe! And although the caramel debate will most likely continue, I am well and truly on the dark side.

Thank you, B, for your part in the inspiration.

I wonder where we are off to now?


Burnt Orange Caramel Sauce

1/4 cup caster (superfine) sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 orange, pith and rind removed, thinly sliced crossways

Stir the sugar in a pan over medium heat until it dissolves, and then cook until it turns a dark caramel colour. Remove from the heat. Carefully, as it spits, add the orange juice and stir until well blended. If you have lumps warm the pan up on low heat. Add the orange slices and allow to warm in the sauce on low heat for a few minutes before setting aside to cool and macerate further in the sauce.

Karen’s Vanilla Panna Cotta

750ml 35% fat cream (25.3 fluid oz)
270ml milk (9 fluid oz)
3.5 titanium grade gelatine leaves
160 grams sugar (5.6 oz)
1 vanilla bean, split in two and the seeds scraped.
Add milk and vanilla bean, along with the scraped seeds into a pan and bring *just* to the boil, then set aside to cool.
Soak gelatine leaves in cold water for five minutes.
Remove the vanilla beans from milk.
Return to the milk to a low heat and add the sugar. Squeeze the water from the gelatine and add to the milk and sugar.
Continue heating and stirring until sugar and gelatine have dissolved. Remove from the heat and add a little of the cream and mix through, this cools the mix a little and means the gelatine will have less of a shock when it is poured in to the full bowl of cream. Then strain the milk mixture with a sieve into the rest of the cream and stir until combined. Ladle the mix into moulds and allow to set overnight in the fridge.

To serve, run a heated knife around the edge of the mould and invert on your plate. We heated our knife by waving it quickly through a gas flame, but you could also dunk it in a jug of hot water and then dry.

Lift the mould up and let the panna cotta slide on to the plate.

Spoon over a little of the sauce and add a slice of the macerated orange.

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