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.

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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.

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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.

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Green Tea Macaroons

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I made these to take to a tea party last weekend. It was a tea party that moved seamlessly into a cocktail party, from which I suffered a painful (but totally worth it) hangover.

Green Tea

Macaroons are notoriously tricky, and I have to admit that these didn’t turn out amazingly. They were a bit misshapen and cracked – definitely not living up to my fantasies of the perfectly round, flawless macaroons you see in patisserie windows. Along with my pastry-chef friend Vicky, we ended up making 3 batches (probably ending up with at least 60 macaroons) in an attempt to get more successful ones.

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Most macaroons are dyed ridiculous artificial colours and are tooth-achingly sweet – so we used matcha green tea powder, giving them a slight bitterness and a lovely gentle green colour. For the filling we opted for a marscapone cream with lots of vanilla, which complemented the green tea flavour really well. So despite not having the most uniform appearance, they tasted good. And by the time we handed them round at the party, everyone (including me) was too sozzled to notice that they were anything less than perfect.

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