Tag Archives: sweets

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.

ingredients

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.

heating

While the cream is heating, separate your eggs

yolk

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

whisk

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.

straining

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.

tempering

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.

dsc_0104

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!

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.

burning_1

burning_2

burning_3

burning_4

burnt

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.

served

Creme Brulee
Adapted from Epicurious
Serves 6

Ingredients

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

Topping
3 tablespoons sugar
Fresh berries or other fruit

Preparation

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.

 

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Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

10 May

That sweet potato cake that Alice made looked so good. I love cakes and breads made with vegetables such as zucchini bread, pumpkin pie or carrot cake. It’s that interesting mix of the vegetables you are used to eating as a savory dish, but mixed with sugar, butter and flour they become a delicious sweet treat.

Carrot cake is my specialty. I make it quite often and as a three-layer cake, it’s quite a special and sophisticated treat with the great spices and the tender crumb.

Carrot Cake

Last weekend, I had my friend Brittany and her two girls, Cambria and June come by for a fun sleepover at my house. After a raucous time in the pool, then a good night’s sleep, the girls helped me make a carrot cake. Let me tell you, if you ever need some great entertainment, have two little girls help you bake.

Carrot Cake helpers

We trimmed and shredded the carrots. I don’t ever bother peeling the carrots I use for carrot cake. I just wash them, trim the ends off and shred them in my trusty old (emphasis on the old) food processor.

shredding carrots

We carefully measured our ingredients into the mixer

ingredients

…paying special attention to the sugar.

sugar

After all the cake ingredients were added, we scooped the shredded carrots into the mixer. As you can see, we were quite hands on with our baking.

hands on baking

I neglected to get a photo of the baking pans that Brittany very carefully greased and lined with rounds of parchment paper for me, but here’s what they looked like filled with the cake batter.

Carrot Cake in pans

While the cakes were in the oven, we mixed up everyone’s favorite part of the cake – the cream cheese icing! It’s hard to go wrong with a beautifully creamy sweet filling and topping for this moist layer cake. It’s made up of four ingredients that you cream together in a mixer.

the icing!

We just tossed all the ingredients into the mixing bowl and started mixing. As you can see below, we had quite the poof of powdered sugar that got all over the counter. If you aren’t interested in having your entire kitchen covered in a very fine layer of sugar, you may want to mix up the cream cheese, butter and vanilla FIRST, then add the powdered sugar very slowly.

creamy icing

The next step, of course, is to taste the icing. Which my helpers were VERY happy to take care of for me.

tasters

helper!

In the meantime, the cakes were finished. They made my house smelled SO GOOD!!

cooling rack

After they cooled in the pans for about fifteen minutes, I turned them out onto a cooling rack until they were completely cool. Then began assembling the cake.

one...

As easily as…

one and done

one…

second layer

…two…

three layers

…three…

fully iced

…and voila!

carrot cake cut

cake!

Of course cake is always best shared with a friend. On the patio. On a nice day.

cake!

You can serve it immediately or put it together a day ahead of time and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight for maximum moistness.

It won’t stick around for long.

gone!

Alice?

TRIPLE-LAYER CARROT CAKE WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
From Bon Apetit

Cake
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups finely grated peeled carrots (about 1 pound)
(optional) 1/2 cup chopped pecans (about 1/2 ounce)
(optional) 1/2 cup raisins

Frosting
4 cups powdered sugar
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

For cake:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pans with waxed or parchment paper. Lightly grease waxed paper. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and vegetable oil in bowl until combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into sugar and oil mixture. Stir in carrots, chopped pecans and raisins, if using.

Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and cakes begin to pull away from sides of pans, about 45 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 10-15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks and cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly in plastic and store at room temperature.)

For frosting:
Using electric mixer, beat all ingredients in medium bowl until smooth and creamy.

Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Top with another cake layer. Spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Top with remaining cake layer. Using icing spatula, spread remaining frosting in decorative swirls over sides and top of cake. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate.) Serve cake cold or at room temperature.

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