The Cooking Chronicles: Coffee Creme Brulee

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!

8 thoughts on “The Cooking Chronicles: Coffee Creme Brulee

  1. Nice! I think I have been plotting to give creme brulee a go now for about three months, but I keep avoiding it in fear that it will suck. I love vanilla too, and am a reasonably harsh judge of creme brulee when I go to restaurants. Seeing other people giving it a try makes me feel a bit more like I should just get over it and try.

  2. Re: consistency – Not sure how much difference this makes, but I use 1 cup whipping cream, 1 cup whole milk, and 1/2 cup sugar for 4 egg yolks.

    Another delicious pots-de-crème option is chai. Heat the cream with some tea and spices (or just use a chai tea bag, it’s easier that way!), then cover and let steep for a few minutes before straining and mixing with the yolk and sugar mixture. You can make the flavour as subtle or as bold as you like depending on how long you let it steep.

  3. CourtJ – my only hestiation with vanilla bean brulee is the cost of the beans themselves!

    Alison – a chai pot de creme sounds wonderful!

  4. Best Creme Brulee recipe ever.



    10 egg yolks
    800ml cream
    1/2 cup sugar
    1 vanilla bean
    1-2 oz any liquor you want (optional, but really, who doesn’t want alcohol fueled dessert?)
    1 table spoon sugar per creme (for that delicious sugar crust)
    bain marie

    preheat oven to 325F

    whisk eggs and sugar (and booze, if using) together in a bowl.
    meanwhile, in a sauce pan, bring cream and vanilla bean (scraped out into cream) to a simmer.

    Slowly whisk hot cream into egg yolks. Pour into a pitcher, and pour several ounces into each ramekin (should make around 8-4 oz creme brulees)
    place in bain marie, and bake until just a big jiggly in the center. Let cool in bain marie. Chill, torch and serve.

  5. You can pick up vanilla beans in pretty much any grocery store (safeway, save on foods, sobeys, the italian centre, etc)

    They are a bit on the expensive side ($7 average for a tube containing 2 beans)

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