Monday, October 12, 2009

Crème Brulee – Nigella Lawson

When Ginny and I are lucky enough to have the opportunity for a night out at a nice restaurant, we are generally more concerned about the entree, and possibly the appetizer, and most definitely the wine, than we are about dessert. Its not that we don't like desserts, we are just much more interested in the main course, as a rule.
However, in the event that the establishment has Creme Brulee on the menu, all bets are off. Don't even bother pouring any kind of sauce over it, and leave any gratuitous fruit back in the kitchen, we don't want it. A creme brulee is done right, it doesn't need any embellishment, and if it does, well, you can keep it.
I still haven't officially signed up for the I Heart Cooking Clubs group, but I heard that they recently chose "comfort food" as their theme for a recent Nigella Lawson tribute. Usually, comfort food says "savory", "gravy", "pasta" or some other version of those things. But Creme Brulee....well, I don't care who you are, it just makes you feel good all over. I think this one qualifies equally well for this week's theme, "Midnight Sneaks". If, on the off chance that there was any of this leftover in my fridge, it would definitely be worth sneaking down to the kitchen for, late, late at night. So, Ginny broke out the torch I bought her a few years ago for this very purpose, and we were on a mission for Creme Brulee.
This recipe calls for eight (count 'em EIGHT!) egg yolks, which therefore left us with eight unused egg whites. We set those aside and saved them for another project that you'll be hearing about soon as well.
DISCLAIMER: The lovely pictures you are about to see were not out first attempt. We were overly confident and although I don't think either one of us can pinpoint exactly where we erred, but the first batch turned into a scrambled egg custard before we could get it in the oven.
It was disgusting.
But, try, try again, they always say, and we are not easily deterred from Creme Brulee, so we persevered. And our efforts were rewarded with this:
We were having my friend Whitney over for lunch that day, so we put the lovely thing in the fridge to chill and then broke it out after we stuffed ourselves with Basil Curry Chicken. I warned Whitney that we were big eaters, but I think we may have frightened her a bit when we pulled the pan out, put it in the middle of the table and laid out three spoons. There are some things about Nigella that I love, and this is one of them. In her recipe, she talks about how some people make creme brulee in little individual dishes, but that she likes to serve it as one large dessert, and I am SO with her on that. I'm not scared, and hey, what are a few cooties between friends when you get to end a meal like this?

Creme Brulee
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
8 egg yolks
3 generous tablespoons granulated sugar
Approximately 6 tablespoons Demerara or granulated brown sugar
Put a pie dish of about 8-inches in diameter in the freezer for at least 20 minutes. Half-fill the sink with cold water. (yeah, ok, we didn't bother with the sink of water.) This is just a precaution in case the custard looks as if it's about to split, in which case you should plunge the pan into the water and whisk the custard. I'm not saying it will - with so many egg yolks in the rich cream, it thickens quickly and easily enough - but I always feel better if I've done this.
Put the cream and vanilla bean (she never talks about splitting the bean and scraping out the seeds, but we are not of the mind to waste a perfectly good vanilla bean, so we split ours and scraped out the seeds before adding it to the cream) into a saucepan and bring to the boiling point, but do not let boil. Beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl, and, still beating, pour the flavored cream over it, bean and all.Rinse and dry the pan and pour the custard mix back in. Cook over medium heat (or low, if you're scared) until the custard thickens, whisking almost constantly: about 10 to 12 minutes should do it. You do want this to be a good, voluptuous creme, so don't err on the side of runny caution. Remember, you've got your sinkful of cold water to plunge the pan into should it really look as if it's about to split.
When the cream's thick enough, take out the vanilla bean, retrieve the pie dish and pour the creme into the severely chilled container.Leave to cool, then put in the refrigerator until truly cold. Sprinkle with Demerara sugar, spoonful by spoonful, and burn with a blowtorch until you have a blistered tortoiseshell covering on top.
Put back in the refrigerator if you want, but remember to take it out a good 20 minutes before serving. At which stage, put the bowl on the table and, with a large spoon and unchecked greed, crack through the sugary carapace and delve into the satin-velvet, vanilla-speckled cream beneath. No more talking: just eat.

And that's just what we did. We brought the chilled dish out of the fridge and then torched it there at the kitchen table until it was caramelly and gorgeous, and then we demolished it. Yes, the entire thing, in one sitting, between the three of us. I was proud of Whitney, the girl can throw down. She wasn't shy about going back for seconds, and I have a new respect for the girl.

Rock on, Nigella!


girlichef said...

Okay, I LOVE creme brulee...I would sneak back at 1 am for more, too ;) Delicious!

Kim said...

This is a fabulous pick for midnight sneaks! I would be so greedy with this creme brulee. I don't even know if it would make it for a midnight snack :D It would probably be gone right after dinner. Looks delicious.

NV said...

Yeah, it would last about as long as a bullet at a turkey shoot. (I'm from the school whereby life is painfully short, so one eats dessert FIRST.) :-)

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Fabulous pick for Midnight Sneaks!
I absolutely love creme brulee. Now I want some. :)
I posted it to Mr. Linky for you.

ARLENE said...

Hands down, my favorite dessert. There's one restaurant I love that serves a "trio" of creme brulee: regular, chocolate, and coconut. I would risk cooties anytime to dig into that lovely crunch you served up. Now I'm going to have drooly dreams tonight.

Joanne said...

As much as I occasionally think otherwise, I am much more of a savory than a sweet person as well. Plus I am usually so full when I go out to eat after the main course that I can't even think about dessert! Creme brulee and bread pudding are my exceptions though. You put them on a menu and I WILL be eating them.

This is quite an impressive feat you took on. I love the image of you guys sitting there with a spoon. Just like kids with a gallon of ice cream. Perfect.

Sweet and Savory said...

I have never made creme brulee and I wan to after seeing your photo. I think we would demolish it also.

Sweet and Savory said...

I have never made creme brulee and I wan to after seeing your photo. I think we would demolish it also.

Pam said...

I want a big old helping of that too!

natalia said...

Ciao ! your whichever attempt is so appetizing ! I really wish I had some now !!!

Shelly W said...

Looks fantastic! It's definitely midnight snack worthy.