Crème brûlée: the perfectly rich, eggy custard we’ve all enjoyed for dessert while mispronouncing and misspelling its name. It’s perhaps best known for its golden-brown layer of caramelized sugar that gives off a distinct burnt taste. But what is a custard, anyway? Did you know that it’s technically a liquid that has been thickened or set via the coagulation of egg protein? The key to perfect custards is to keep the internal temperature of the mixture below 185°F to avoid curdling.
And that’s where our good friends at ChefSteps come in. By cooking custards in a sous vide bath, they point out, we can precisely dictate the temperature to which they are heated. They wrote in with a recipe for crème brûlée individually portioned in small mason jars. Before serving, they use a blowtorch to add the pivotal final touch. The result is a sunshine-hued dessert with a deliciously crackly top and a whisper of elegant sweetness, easy to whip up and eminently satisfying. Check out the brief instructional video and full recipe below.
About 11 egg yolks
90 grams granulated sugar, plus more for dusting
3 grams salt
600 grams heavy cream
- Heat water bath to 176°F.
- Combine yolks, sugar and salt and whisk until smooth.
- Heat cream to 158°F in a pot on the stove and slowly pour into egg mixture.
- Strain the mixture, then allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes so that bubbles have time to rise to the top and dissipate. Skim away any remaining bubbles.
- Cast 150 grams of mixture into each jar, pouring in a slow, low, steady stream.
- Close jars until “fingertip tight” — barely closed and still possible to open with your fingertips. In order to do so, place the lid on top of the jar, then twist the band to tighten using just your fingertips. When you begin to feel resistance, twist once in the opposite direction, then once more in the original direction to tighten.
- Place jars carefully into the sous vide water bath and cook for one hour.
- Remove jars from the bath and rest at room temperature. Prepare an ice bath. Once jars are cool to the touch, transfer to ice bath to chill. When the jars are good and cold, go ahead and tighten the lids. They will last up to a week, sealed, in the refrigerator.
- There isn’t one correct way to create a crackly top layer of caramelized sugar. Here is one idea: Remove the lid from the jar. If condensation has pooled on the surface of the custard, gently dab with the corner of a paper towel to remove. Using your fingers, dust a layer of sugar over the surface of the custard. Set blowtorch to a low-gas-release setting. Holding the torch in your dominant hand and the jar in the other, focus the flame on the custard while rotating the jar. Control the heat by moving the torch closer and farther from the custard — the distance should range from 10 to 24 inches. Once you have achieved the color you want, allow the sugar to set for five minutes. Enjoy!
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