Mother’s Day: Crème Brûlée
Mother’s Day. For me, it’s bittersweet.
I love being a mom. I’m sure my friends are sick of me saying “He’s my life.” But he is. It’s hard to put into words how much my life changed when Michael came into my life, but I will quite simply say that he is my favourite person in the whole world, and I can’t imagine my life without him in it.
By the same token, my mom is gone, and I miss her.
This year has been quite remarkable for me, baby-wise. For some reason, a whole spate of my closest circle of girlfriends are either pregnant, or are celebrating their first Mother’s Day today. It’s been very exciting times.
Whenever I get together with my girlfriends, and we make dinner, or celebrate a special occasion (like Sarah’s bachelorette party), I like to make Crème Brûlée (which just means “burnt cream). For me, Crème Brûlée is one of those “special occasion” desserts. I used to only have it in restaurants on special occasions, because I believed it was really complicated to make.
It’s actually incredibly simple, although it can be a bit fiddly. You can’t muck about with quantities, and you have to know a few basic techniques to make it properly.
- 1/3 c sugar
- 2 c whipping cream
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla, or a vanilla bean, split and scraped down the middle
- Dump the whipping cream into a medium, heavy-bottom saucepan, and add the vanilla or the bean.
2. Heat on medium heat until just to the boiling point.
3. Remove from heat to the back of the stove for a moment.
4. While the cream is heating, separate four eggs. I keep the whites for making scrambled eggs or macaroons. I have an egg-separator gizmo, but I find it just as easy to carefully crack the egg in half, and then pass the yolk back and forth between the two halves over a bowl until the whites are all in the bowl, and only the yolk is left in the shell. You can also crack the egg, and then drop the whole thing into your cupped hand that you are holding over a bowl. Your fingers act as a kind of sieve, holding in the yolk, but allowing the whites to flow through.
5. Add the sugar to the egg yolks and whip together until smooth and a pale yellow colour.
6. Take a ladelfull of the hot cream mixture, and add it to the egg mixture. This is a technique called tempering, and is used in a lot of custard-based recipes, like ice-cream. What this does, is it allows the eggs to slowly come up in temperature so you can add them to the rest of the cream. If you added them directly to the hot cream, they would scramble.
7. Add the egg mixture back into the cream mixture and incorporate well.
8. Pour the entire mixture into something that will make it easy to pour out. I use a 2-cup Pyrex liquid measuring cup.
9. Now prepare the Bain-Marie. Bain-Marie is the french term for a water bath. It cooks in a way that is gentler and more even, when you are working with ingredients that will get ruined if you cook them on too high a heat–chocolate, for example, or milk and eggs. Take a 8″ x 8″ pan, and place your four ramekins, one on each corner (I buy these in the dollar store). Pour the creme brulee mixture into each of the ramekins, filling them up to within about a half an inch or so of the top. Now put the entire pan in the oven, and fill the pan, surrounding the ramekins, with boiling water, up to about 2/3 or 3/4 of the way. Optionally, you can refrigerate the creme brulees overnight to help them set even more before baking them.
10. Bake at 275 degrees for about 35 minutes.
11. The creme brulees are done when they are a little bit golden on top, and are firm, but still a little jiggly in the middle.
12. Remove from the bain-marie and refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight.
13. When you are ready to serve, sprinkle a thin layer of white sugar over the top of the creme brulee. Tap until it is fairly even. Then torch it!! If you don’t have a brulee torch, you can also use the broiler on your oven, but be very careful and watch it constantly, because it burns really quickly.
Add spoon and enjoy!
Happy Mother’s Day!
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