Monday, August 15, 2005

Creme Brulee

While my dad and Bette were here, we did a Sunday lunch at McCormick & Schmick's restaurant at Bridgeport Village. True glutton that I am, when the dessert tray was presented, I ordered the dessert sampler. This consisted of a small berry cobbler, a small chocolate mousse, and a small creme brulee. I shared the cobbler with Kelly (as she was named back then ) and gave her most of the mousse. But the creme brulee tasted so good that I pretty much hogged the whole thing for myself. Since then, I've been kind of obsessed with trying to make one of my own.

Creme brulee is basically an egg custard with a carmelized sugar shell. There are tons of recipes on the web, varying widely in their ingredients and techniques. Here is a decent example recipe. For my first attempt, I decided to try the recipe in our Cook's Illustrated cookbook. This is definitely a 'for me' project, as Jean is clear on her 'no custards' policy.

The recipe calls for cooking the mixture in ramekins bathed in a bain marie, fancy French for 'water bath'. This has the dual effects of creating a uniform cooking temperature, and limiting the temperature to 212 degrees, regardless of oven setting (as the water reaches boiling point, that energy is bled off into the stove). You are supposed to cook at 275 degrees for 45 minutes, then remove the bain marie from the oven and let the ramekins cool in the water to room temperature. Then refrigerate for at least two hours.

I let the custards sit in the refrigerator overnight, and I'm afraid the centers were still more of an eggnog than a custard. I'll have to try the recipe again, with a longer cooking time (one hour?). In the meantime, the periphery is somewhat custardy, suggesting that the recipe will be quite satisfying when I get the cooking time down pat. And there are always those hundreds of variations online, as well as the recipe I found in Cookwise, a cookbook recommended in On Food and Cooking.

On the bright side, the brulee part, the carmelized layer of brown sugar on the top, turned out very nicely. It's pleasing to get at least one component of the recipe right the first time.

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