Crème brulee is a well known dessert of rich custard topped with caramelized sugar (hard caramel). Generally served cold the custard base is traditionally flavored with vanilla but is also sometimes flavored with lemon or orange (zest), rosemary, chocolate, coffee, liqueurs or other fruit.
Crème brulee is French means Burnt Cream. In fact, neither the cream nor the sugar on top are burnt but both are cooked. This exotic dessert has a thick rich pudding base of cream and eggs topped by a delicate layer of caramelized sugar. The word Brulee is used by French for a variety of different desserts which are topped with caramelized sugar.
The exact origins of Crème brulee is uncertain but the earliest known reference of crème brulee appeared in Francois Massialot’s 1691 cookbook and the French name was used in the English translation of this book, but the 1731 edition of Massialot’s Cuisinier roial et bourgeois changed the name of the same recipe from ‘crème brulee’ to ‘crema anglaise’.
In the early eighteenth century, the dessert was called burnt cream in English. In Britain, a version of crème brûlée (known locally as 'Trinity Cream' or 'Cambridge burnt cream') was introduced at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1879 with the college arms "impressed on top of the cream with a branding iron", The story goes that the recipe was from an Aberdeenshire country house and was offered by an undergraduate to the college cook, who turned it down.
However, when the student became a Fellow, he managed to convince the cook. Crema catalana (Catalan 'Catalan cream'), crema cremada (Catalan 'Burnt cream') or crema de Sant Josep, is a Catalan dish similar to crème brûlée. It is traditionally served on Saint Joseph's Day, March 19, although nowadays it is consumed at all times of year.
The custard is flavored with lemon or orange zest, and cinnamon. The sugar in crema catalana is traditionally caramelized under an iron broiler, never with a flame. Traditionally Crème brûlée is usually served in individual ramekins. Discs of caramel may be prepared separately and put on top just before serving, or the caramel may be formed directly on top of the custard, immediately before serving.
To do this, sugar is sprinkled onto the custard, then caramelized under a broiler/salamander, with a butane torch (or similar), or by flambéing a hard liquor on it. The prime feature of any crème brulee is the burnt sugar topping must be cracked when the custard is to be consumed.
Crème brulee rose to fame in the cafes and restaurants of Paris in the 19th century. Although the origin of the custard has been debated, this dish known as creme brulee, or "burnt cream" in English, is distinctly French. Crème brulee is now a common dessert found in thousands of restaurants across the country.
For preparing the delicious crème brulee, firstly preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Bring the cream and milk to a boil with the vanilla bean. Remove from the heat and let it cool for about 5 minutes. In a mixing bowl, beat together the egg yolks and sugar. Begin to add some of the milki mixture to the bowl mixing well.
Continue mixing until all the milk has been combined with the egg mixture. Pour this mixture through a fine strainer into individual ramekin dishes. Place these dishes carefully on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake this for about 50 minutes until almost firm. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Sprinkle some additional sugar on top and either broil or use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar. Serve the crème brulee chilled. A good trick for checking when it is cooked is to stick a toothpick in the centre; if it comes out clean (or with crumbs on it) then cooking is complete. If it comes out wet then cook another 10 minutes and check again.
Don't overcook as the texture will become too firm rather than creamy.
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Crème Brûlée is actually fairly easy to prepare. The only tricky thing is to judge when it is cooked enough. The exact cooking time depends on the size and shape of your ramekins. Once you've made the recipe successfully, simply note the cooking time you've used and always use the same in future.
Crème Brûlée is practically easy to prepare. The only tricky thing is to judge when it is cooked enough. The exact cooking time depends on the size and shape of your ramekins. Once you've made the recipe successfully, simply note the cooking time you've used and always use the same in future. Creme brulee combines minimal flavors in a partly chilled yet partly heated dessert.
There are many different variations on the flavor of cream and sugar that add spices, nuts, liqueurs, or toppings. For instance, some chefs mix in cinnamon, vanilla extract, coconut, and pumpkin, melted chocolate or concentrated espresso to make seasonal varieties whereas others use rich, heavy liqueurs like creme de cassis, bourbon, or creme de menthe for a spicy flair.