There’s a reason every cook should own a blowtorch. Creme brulée, that darling of fine restaurants, is much easier to produce with that simple butane-powered tool.
I almost ran out of fuel while working on recipes from “Creme Brulée: The World’s ‘Most Famous’ Dessert” (Spruce, 64 pages, $9.99), one of the quartet of 40-something recipe cookbooks released this month (and previewed in this Appetizers blog last week).
The publisher put “most famous” in quotes because that topic can be endlessly debated (what about cake?!), but the appeal of this creamy dessert also is never ending.
Creme brulée has been around more than 300 years. Its name literally means “burnt cream” (or “broiled cream”) and, in its most basic form, that pretty much sums it up: Egg yolks, heavy cream and sugar make a rich custard, topped with a shell of hard (nearly burnt) caramel. But that custard can take on many flavors from subtle lemon or lavendar to rich fudge or coffee liqueur. Or it can be savory (like quiche) with bits of salmon, lobster, spinach or tomato — just as long as it has that broiled top.
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As a cookbook, “Creme Brulée” may seem familiar to some devotees; it was originally released in the United Kingdom in 2003. Published this time around by Spruce (a division of Octopus Publishing and distributed in the U.S. by Hachette Book Group), this newly repackaged United States edition translates the measurements for American cooks. The food styling makes you want to sample every variation of this classic dessert or its savory alter-ego (a surprising egg-rich brunch suggestion).
In our testing, the chocolate rum truffle brulée lived up to its billing as “decadent and delicious,” “the brulée for all chocolate lovers.” The passion fruit brulée had me daydreaming about other possible tropical fruits in cream. Earl Grey brulée looked extra cute cooked in little ovenproof teacups. Likewise, the coffee brulée fit perfectly in espresso cups.
Using the flavor of the season, this sweet pumpkin brulée is a delicious ending to fall meals. (For more pumpkin ideas, check out today’s Food & Wine section.)
Meanwhile, I’m stocking up on butane.
Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.
Sweet pumpkin brulée
This “Creme Brulee” variation tastes like super-rich pumpkin pie without the crust. The maple syrup gives its sweetness a delicate difference.
Makes 6 servings.
8 egg yolks
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
3 tablespoons light brown sugar, to finish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a bowl, mix together egg yolks, maple syrup and 2 tablespoons light brown sugar with a fork.
In a saucepan, heat buttermilk and cream together and bring almost to a boil. Gradually pour the hot buttermilk-cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture and whisk until smooth. Strain the custard back into the saucepan and stir in pumpkin puree.
Place 6 individual heatproof ramekins or custard cups in a roasting pan. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the dishes, then pour warm water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the dishes.
Bake in a pre-heated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until the desserts are just set with a slight softness at the center.
Leave the dishes to cool in the water bath, then lift them out and chill them in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours or overnight.
About 25 minutes before serving, remove desserts from the refrigerator. Sprinkle tops with remaining brown sugar and caramelize with a blowtorch or under the broiler. Leave at room temperature until ready to eat.
Recipe adapted from “Creme Brulée: The World’s ‘Most Famous’ Dessert” (Spruce)