Crème brûlée woes


This is a tale of tragedy. I did promise when I started that I would share both successes and … ahem … failures. I like to think this was not so much a failure as it was a learning experience.

Remember how a few weeks ago I made a tiramisu cake for Leo? Well, today I tried turning another of my favorite desserts into a cake. The star of the show – crème brûlée.

After all, who doesn’t love crème brûlée? It’s elegant, light, the perfect degree of sweet and thoroughly delicious.

Making an airy white cake was easy enough. I let it cool and then poked multiple deep holes across the top to help soak up the delicious vanilla bean custard I whipped up. I have heard some people use instant vanilla pudding to recreate the crème brûlée experience, but that is far too amateur. I never substitute nuanced, authentic flavors with short and easy prep. The same goes for using boxed cakes – it doesn’t take much longer to use quality ingredients and make the batter from scratch, and your end result will be far superior.

I used two vanilla beans and scraped the seeds into my milk during the early stages of making the vanilla bean custard. I went with two layers of cake and two layers of custard, so the topmost layer of the whole cake was custard. The purpose was my intention to caramelize the top. Here’s where the tragedy struck.

After all my hard work – making custard and cake from scratch – my inexperience with a torch became evident. Ideally, you want a thin layer of crackly, caramely, consistent sugar crust. Having never attempted to use a blow torch before, I burnt certain spots and then – fearing I would burn the whole lot of sugar and my kitchen counter with it – I overcorrected and “under torched” other areas. Not the best effect, either for taste or presentation. I was able to peel off the crust, only to find I had melted my custard in certain spots. Using what little leftover custard I had to cover my mistake, I then had a second go at the torch, this time with a significantly better result. Hopefully the execution will be better next time. Oh, the joys of trial and error. But that’s baking, I suppose!