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La Belle Cuisine
Dessert Circus: Extraordinary
Desserts You Can Make at Home
by Jacques Torres, 1998, William Morrow and Co., Inc.
“Here is one of the most popular desserts at Le Cirque. It has been on the
for more than fifteen years and is one of the most copied recipes in
When Chef Dieter Schorner was the pastry chef at Le Cirque more than fifteen
years ago, it was his responsibility to make the Crème Brûlée. Ever since
time, great mystery has surrounded this recipe, with everyone wondering,
this really the original?’ It think it is, but Francisco, who has been
last fifteen years, just answers me with a sly smile. Over
the years I
and served it flavored with coffee, chocolate, fruit, and a
host of other
I like to use lightly fluted, heavy ceramic ovall
molds that are
about three -
five - by one-inch high.”
For the topping
1 cup firmly packed (4.8 ounces; 135 grams)
light brown sugar
For the custard
4 cups (32 ounces; 960 grams) heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
1 large egg
6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (6 ounces; 175 grams)
Prepare the topping: The brown sugar will be used to
finish the dessert and it needs time to air-dry to remove the moisture it
contains. To do this, spread the sugar on a large plate or baking sheet and
let dry, uncovered, for about 3 hours. When it is properly dried, it will
feel dry and sandy. Set aside.
Prepare the custard: Pour the heavy cream into a nonreactive 1
1/2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan and place over medium heat. While the
cream is heating, slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, using a sharp
paring knife. Separate the seeds from the skin by scraping the bean with the
knife. Place the seeds and skin in the heating cream. Scald the cream by
heating it until bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan. Remove
from the heat.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the whole egg, egg yolks, and sugar
until well blended. Continue to whisk while slowly pouring the hot cream
into the egg mixture and whisk until the mixture is smooth and homogenous
color. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the vanilla bean
pieces and any overcooked eggs. You next step will be made easier if
strain the mixture into a large measuring cup with a spout.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F (93 degrees C). Place the molds on a
baking sheet with 1-inch-high sides. Fill the molds half-full with the
custard and set the sheet in the oven (it’s much easier to transfer the
sheet with the molds only half-full.) Now, finish filling the molds to the
top. It is important
to fill the molds to the top, as the custard will lose
its volume as it bakes. Traditionally, Crème Brûlée is baked in a hot water
bath to insulate the custard from the direct heat of the oven and to keep
the eggs from cooking too fast, which would cause them to separate. Using
hot water from the
tap, pour enough water into the baking sheet to reach
halfway up the sides
of the molds. If you are using a convection oven,
however, a water bath
is not needed because the even circulation of the air
insulates the custard
from the direct heat.
In either case, baking time is approximately the same, about 30 minutes.
When baked correctly, the custard should tremble slightly when gently
shaken. If you detect any liquid under the skin, the custard is underbaked.
Put them back in the oven and shake them every 5 minutes or so until
Remove the molds from the water bath and place on a cooling rack for 30
minutes. Then refrigerate for 2 hours (or for up to 3 days) before serving;
the custards will finish setting in the refrigerator. Let the water bath
before removing it from the oven.
To finish the Crème Brûlée: Preheat the broiler. Pass the dried brown
sugar through a sieve to remove any lumps. Immediately before serving,
spread a thin layer of the brown sugar over the tops of the custards. You
have spread enough sugar when the custard is no longer visible, about 2
tablespoons. It is important to spread the sugar evenly; if it is too thick
or too thin in places,
the caramelization will not be even across the top/
Place the molds on a clean baking sheet. When the broiler is hot, place the
sheet about 4 inches under
the broiler and broil until the sugar is
caramelized. Keep a close eye on the
Crème Brûlée during broiling. They are
finished when they are light brown.
Place each mold on a small dessert plate
and serve immediately.
Note: When working with sugar and egg yolks, it is important to mix them
together quickly and evenly. When sugar comes in contact with egg yolks, a
chemical reaction occurs, heat is produced, and the eggs begin to scramble.
The scrambled egg will cause lumps in the final product.
Featured Archive Recipes:
Vanilla Crème Brûlée
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