Archive for May, 2010

Crème Brûlée and No BS

20 May 10

This is one of those dishes that snazzy restaurants like to serve and tony people like to order because of the mystique. But let us de-mystify this dish. First off – it is only a rich custard with a caramelized sugar topping. That’s all – folks. The bs came about with the using a torch to dramatically melt the topping. You don’t need a torch or anything else special – just an oven. The history of these is cloudy and fairly far back. At least the first cookbook reference seems to be 1691 or so. Nouveau cuisinier royal et bourgeois by François Massialot to be reasonable accurate.


6 egg yolks
50 g white sugar (4 Tbs)
3 g vanilla extract (1/2 tsp)
575 g heavy cream (2-1/2 cups)


25 g brown sugar (2 Tbs)
25 g white sugar (2 Tbs)

—– Custard —–

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Start heating water in a double boiler.

Use a good mixer with a whisk beater and beat the egg yolks for a few seconds – they will thicken a bit. Add the sugar and vanilla and whisk on a fairly high speed for enough time to thicken and become creamy (not long).

Warm the cream in a saucepan over low heat until it almost boils – but not quite. Slowly add the warm cream to the egg mixture stirring on low speed. Give it a few seconds more until all is well combined.

When the double boiler is ready pour the mixture into the top and stir gently over the simmering water until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. This will probably take between three and five minutes. Remove from heat and pour an even amount into 5 ramekins.

Bake for 30 minutes. It will not be fully set – but don’t go by appearance. Let it cool to room temp and then stick into the refrigerator overnight.

—– Topping —–

Blend the sugars together and evenly distribute over the custards. You can get good coverage by gently rubbing your fingers around the top of the custard getting a nice even coating. Don’t press heavily enough to mash the sugar into the custard.

Now for bs elimination round. Sure – you can make a big deal out of hitting the sugar topping with a torch. You can even get ridiculous and get a torch which is only used for this one purpose. You don’t need this touch of pretension and extra expense. Just preheat the broiler of your oven and run the custards in for a few minutes until the sugar bubbles and darkens a bit – caramelized, as it were. Don’t let it burn dark. Take it out and cool to room temp. You can refrigerate or not at this point. You don’t need to unless the custard got hot enough to liquefy and needs resetting.

This is actually pretty simple – enjoy with no bs factor.


Loaf Pan Sourdough Loaf

1 May 10

This is a nice loaf for loaf pans. (Not that you can’t do baguettes or free-form). It does pretty good for toast, sandwich, cheese toast and the like. This is a pure sourdough with no additional yeast added.

—–Overnight Starter—–

340   g   fed sourdough starter (1-1/3 cups)

303   g   water (1-1/3 cups)

340   g   bread flour (3 cups)

—–Next Morning Sponge—–

170   g   flour (1-1/3 cups)


170   g   water (2/3 cup)

14     g   butter or oil (2 tsp)

340   g   bread flour (3 cups)

19     g   salt (3 tsp)

—– Starter —–

Mix starter, water and flour together and cover. Substitute whole wheat or white whole wheat for half the flour if desired. Let ferment overnight.

—– Sponge —–

Mix in flour. Ferment 4 hours.

—– Dough —–

Mix in all ingredients. Mix 3 minutes low speed, 3 minutes second speed.

Ferment 4 hours, should be doubled.

Divide, shape, place into lubed pans, ferment until doubled – about 3 hours. This recipe makes 2 8-1/2” x 4-1/2” x 2-1/2” loaves, or one larger loaf.

Baguettes or free-form: Slash, steam. Bake covered 15 minutes at 450F. Uncover and reduce heat to 425F for 15 minutes.

Loaf pan: Steam. Bake at 400F for 45 minutes.

Not a purist’s French bread, since butter is added to the mix, and by French law only flour, water, yeast and salt are allowed in something called “French Bread”.

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