There are some kitchen gadgets, that while extraneous to day-to-day cooking, are justifiable. A food processor, for example, has so many uses that the expense incurred (and precious cupboard/counter space needed) could be rationalized – sauces, dips, bread crumbs, dough…the list goes on. Others, such as a mini kitchen blowtorch, are less reasonable. Though being able to make my own crème brulee was always an interesting idea, practicality got in the way of the purchase.
Fortunately, I had thoughtful friends who bought one for me for my birthday, and six months after the fact, I finally used it. Using Bob Blumer’s recipe, which seemed less taxing than many I came across (it removed a stovetop folding step), I made six Coffee Crème Brulees. While I had to be careful while pouring the water bath that surrounded the ramekins, the directions to bake it until the mixtures just slightly “jiggled” were spot on.
I took them out to cool, then, excited to finally use the torch, spread the necessary sugar on top of the custard. I took the torch out of the box, and then…couldn’t use it because I hadn’t thought to fill it with butane first. At this point, I wanted to eat one, so used Blumer’s suggestion of putting it under the broiler for a few minutes. The combination of too much sugar and not watching the dessert resulted in an overly-burnt crust. I was hoping the torch would allow for better control.
The next evening, I went to Burlington Tobacconists on Whyte to pick up some butane. For whatever reason I thought the gas would come in a disposable canister, to be inserted into the torch, used, then replaced. Instead, the butane came in an aerosol can. The staff person showed me how to fuel the torch (three second intervals is best, he said), and played around with the flame controls. I was set.
Back at home, I put Mack (and his pyrotechnic tendencies) in charge of the torch. He pulled the switch down and pushed the button (similar to how a butane lighter works), releasing an uncontrollable ten inch flame. It took us a while to finally realize we needed to tip the torch at an angle to make it release a small blue flame that we could utilize. A few minutes of concentrated effort later, we had a bubbling, golden brown crust.
The torch at work
Mack was surprised that the crust was solid all the way through, and like at an expert restaurant, required a quick wrist tap to break through to the custard below. He didn’t like all of the sugar, but I loved all of sweet crunchy bits. The custard was flavoured with instant coffee (and minus the stovetop step), was actually thicker than I wanted, and slightly more overpowering than I am used to. Vanilla bean, plain and simple, is my favourite, so I likely will have to try out an alternative recipe to see if I can achieve a lighter consistency.
Coffee Creme Brulee
It was fun being able to make one of my favourite dining out desserts at home. Thanks Annie and Janice!