If you've been reading this blog, you probably noticed that I am not a big dessert person. I don't have much of a sweet tooth and get into a dessert making mood rarely. But last time I was at Russo's (my produce market), a bag of turbinado sugar caught my attention -- the kind they tell you to use for crème brûlée to form the torched crust that is oh-so-satisfying to break with a spoon. This got me thinking... Is this "gourmet" sugar with its "gourmet" price really necessary?
I made a batch of crème brûlée to find out. I used regular sugar on one cup and turbinado sugar for the other. Turns out turbinado sugar is actually worth the splurge, but no, it's not strictly necessary. The cup on the left was sprinkled with turbinado sugar, the one on the right with regular granulated sugar. Turbinado produced a prettier crust that was more crackly, though the regular one was not bad either. The most important thing is to torch it correctly. When I used to work in a restaurant, torching crème brûlées was one of my favorite dessert plating tasks. It's really quite easy if you know a few tricks:
- Throw away that stupid crème brûlée torch from William and Sonoma for $40. Go to a hardware store and buy yourself a cheapy Bernzomatic Propane Torch (like the ones plumbers use).
- Pat the top of the custard with paper towel to remove any moisture before sprinkling it with sugar.
- Sprinkle with sugar evenly.
- Don't move your torch all over the custard. Hold it in one place until that square inch is nicely browned, then move to the next square inch.
1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 large egg yolks
6 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla (or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise)
Extra sugar (preferably turbinado) for torching the top
Heat the cream and vanilla almost to a simmer. If using vanilla bean, put it in the cream and let it steep 5 minutes. Scrape out the seeds from the bean with a small knife and return them to the cream. Discard the bean.
In a medium bowl, stir with a wooden spoon just until blended 6 egg yolks and 6 Tbsp sugar. Gradually stir in the cream. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl or large measuring cup with a pouring lip.
Pour into 4 cups or ramekins and place in the water bath. Set the pan in the oven and set the oven temperature at 250F (that's right -- the oven was not preheated). Bake until the custards are set but still slightly quivery in the center when the cups are gently shaken, 60-90 minutes. Start checking at 50 minutes. Remove the custards from the water bath and let cool to room temperature. Then chill in the fridge until cold. Cover each one with plastic wrap and continue to chill. The total refrigeration time should be at least 8 hours or up to 2 days. Sprinkle with sugar, torch, and enjoy. Have fun playing with fire :)