Crème Brûlée

creme brulee

One of my more specialised Christmas presents this year was a cook’s blowtorch. We have been trying in vain to come up with uses for it other than caramelising the sugar on top of a crème brûlée, tentatively suggesting things like charring the outside of aubergines, but it really only has one purpose. I love this particular dessert so much, though, that having a piece of rather expensive kitchen gadgetry designed solely to make it seems fine to me.

montage

Crème Brûlée originated in England, in Cambridge, under the appellation ‘Burnt Cream’. The dessert was then adopted, and probably perfected, by the French, and given a much more elegant name. On a recent trip to Paris I opted to try many incarnations of the dessert, ranging from passable to sublime. The exact combination of a thin layer of crisp caramel hiding a luscious, wobbly underneath is surprisingly hard to come by. Often they are fiddled about with, and things like ginger, blueberries or cardamom are added. For me, the most successful crème brûlée will always be one flavoured purely with vanilla.

montage2

The blowtorch took a bit of getting used to: the rushing of gas and the sudden ignition are slightly alarming – my first couple of attempts definitely deserved the description ‘burnt cream’. After a few practices and some YouTube tutorials, I was able to get something resembling gently caramelised. A few black patches are fine though- the slight bitterness greatly complements the creamy, sweet custard.

montage3

Continue reading

Advertisements

Brioche

brioche on tray

One of the joys I remember vividly from childhood summers spent camping in a friend’s garden in the Pyrenees was the breakfast. We would wake up to find yards of thin, fresh baguette and fluffy brioche to dip in hot chocolate. I was surprised, and delighted, to find that this was a legitimate breakfast. Even with our parents present.

proving

I went to Paris recently, having been to the south of France many times, but never the capital. I composed a mental ‘food list’, which included snails, duck confit, Nutella crepes (all accomplished).  One of my first things to tick off was that lovely breakfast, evoking memories of lazy, sunny mornings with nothing to do for the rest of the day but eat.

Brioche and jam

Happily, we found this lovely bakery near our apartment in Montmartre. We had brioche rolls and hot chocolate, along with pistachio and almond croissants and pain au chocolat. It’s fair to say we returned to this bakery with obsessive, waistline-troubling regularity during our stay in Paris.

Paris

I arrived home intent on recreating the delicate little brioche rolls. Brioche works just as well as part of a savoury meal; these rolls are adapted from a recipe for brioche burger buns. I ate mine both dipped in hot chocolate (of course) and spread, a little smugly, with homemade plum and amaretto jam.

Continue reading