Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Raspberry Crème Brûlée

I really like crème brûlée. If you've ever had it at a good restaurant, you know why. It's creamy, slightly sweet, silky smooth, creamy, crunchy on top, rich, and creamy. It's a very simple dessert as far as ingredients go, and I've noticed that occasionally someone tries to dress it up by selling "raspberry crème brûlée", or blackberry, or something else that is not just cream. I actually quite like berries, too, and often serve them on top of my crème brûlée, but I've always wondered how they'd taste inside. Rather, I've always wondered if it's worth it. The dessert is so perfect as it is, would the berries make it even better, or would they dilute the quality that makes it so divine?

Thus far, I've never ordered a raspberry (or other flavor)
crème brûlée. Too chicken I'd be disappointed. But I thought it was high time I get a real answer, at least as far as my taste goes. So after we picked all those beautiful berries for jam, I took a few of the leftovers and quickly went to work.

rème brûlée isn't difficult to make, as long as you can tell when it's done, and I've been doing it for years. The first time I had it, actually, was at a restaurant called The Grand Old Ranch House in Moab, Utah on my honeymoon. I later called and the chef gave me the recipe, and I'm so glad I had the guts to do that, since the restaurant no longer exists.

Anyhow, like I said, it's not difficult to make, and it only requires a few ingredients: cream, egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla. I prefer to use vanilla beans, but I don't always have them around, so this time I used vanilla extract (homemade, but I'll get into that another day). Sometimes I've used heavy cream, but this time I used whipping cream (slightly less heavy), and had much better results. The taste was still very rich, but it didn't leave that coating on your mouth the way extra-fatty foods can. I like the heavier flavor of heavy cream, so my suggestion would be to go for half of each in the recipe (1 c. heavy cream, 1 c. whipping cream). As for the eggs, I get them from a friend who raises her own chickens, so they're very fresh, vegetarian-fed, and free range. That's the best way to get eggs, if you have the option. Otherwise look for vegetarian-fed, free range eggs in the grocery store. There's a difference in flavor, and flavor is very important in a dish with so few ingredients.

For the raspberries, I simply dropped five fresh raspberries in each ramekin before filling it with the custard. The rest of the recipe is as follows:

Crème Brûlée

2 c. cream
4 egg yolks
2 1/2 T sugar + 2 T more for tops
1/2 t. vanilla extract, or seeds from half a vanilla bean

Preheat the oven to 350
°. If your water bath will be in a stoneware pan, preheat that in the oven as well. Heat about 8 cups of water for the water bath and set aside.

Whisk together the cream, egg yolks, 2 1/2 T. sugar, and vanilla. Place four 4-oz. ramekins in your water bath dish, then fill them to the top with the custard. Gently pour the hot water into the water bath dish.

Bake until the centers are just barely set, like gelatin. If you use a preheated stoneware dish and hot water, this will probably take about 25 minutes. If you're using any regular 9" x 13" pan for the water bath, it may take 40-50 minutes. Remove to a rack and cool, then chill in the refrigerator until cold.

Sprinkle 1/2 T. sugar on each of the baked custards. Using a torch, burn the sugar until slightly brown, then chill 15 minutes, or up to a day, before serving. If you don't have a torch, you can do this under a very hot broiler, placing the custards close to the heating element and burning the sugar as quickly as possible. Be careful not to get them too hot, or you will end up overcooking the custard, destroying the smooth texture.

So, do you want to know what's better? The original, by far. I enjoyed the flavor of the raspberries, but they kept getting in the way of all the good bites of
crème brûlée. I'll serve them on top next time.

1 comment:

Abbigail said...

I want to try this! I wish you were close enough to borrow all of the goodies to make it with.