Monday, 31 August 2015

My GBBO Challenge #4: Crème Brûlée

OCD Panic Rating: 1/5
Handwashes: 1

It was a sad moment when we had to say goodbye to the hilarious Sandy on this week's episode.  Where some contestants seem to take themselves oh-so-seriously, she had a sense of humour (and sense of perspective) about the whole thing.  However, her crème brûlée was just custard.  She had to go.

I felt a serious sense of dread whilst watching as each challenge seemed more difficult than the last.  Mary's meringue technical challenge was a real horror, leaving me doubtful if I was going to be able to make any of this week's recipes.  I decided that crème brûlée was my best bet, although Google's results seemed to bring up some fearfully tricky versions as well.  Despair!  Then I found this on the BBC Good Food page.  It's a suspiciously simple recipe for white chocolate crème brûlée, one that seemed both delicious and manageable.  The challenge was set, but would my brûlée be?

Just to demonstrate how unprepared I was for this, I had to go out and buy ramekins before starting. I tend not to make desserts because I'm not a dinner party person and most recipes are hard to cut down for two people.  This recipe was simple to halve, making four individual portions that would make tasty puds for two nights.  Result!

In terms of the cooking, it was as easy as it sounded.  The chocolate and vanilla (I used vanilla bean paste) melt into the cream, then the egg yolks and sugar are added.  I don't have an electric whisk so I had to beat the yolks by hand until pale.  It was not an easy task, but I like to think that the calories burnt made up for the ones I was about to eat.  Once the custard was made, I poured it into the four ramekins, baked it until just set, then put into the fridge to chill.  Judging the wobble is genuinely tricky.  I cooked them for longer than recommended because it seemed too liquidy when I first checked.  After an additional five minutes, they gave a slight shudder when I moved them, and I decided (based on very little) that this was what I was looking for.  They had a nice look to them:

When it came to caramelising the top, I had a few reservations.  This was my first time using the new grill and I had also never used a grill in this way before.  I think this caught me out.  Maybe they weren't close enough to the grill so I had to leave them under a bit too long, meaning the set custard melted back into its liquid form.  The caramel cracked beautifully though, and it looked very tempting:

The taste was fantastic.  The vanilla and white chocolate weren't overpowering but added a subtle flavour to the custard instead.  It was light but rich, and intensely satisfying.

Based on the mistakes of the previous night, I tried to do the caramel top a different way with the other two.  I put two circles of sugar on baking paper and put them right under the grill.  This did make circles of caramel - one burnt, one perfect.  However, it almost set the kitchen on fire too.

We just ate the set custard straight from the fridge instead, and I can happily state that it had a wonderful velvety smooth texture.  It was maybe a smidgen less firm than it needed to be, but it was a better result than I had expected.  A simple and enjoyable recipe that I think I can master with a little more practice.

Key Points:
  • Test the grill on something less critical before trying to make a crème brûlée under it.  Toast, maybe?
  • Baking paper can cope with some pretty high temperatures, but everything has its limit.
Win Rating: 3/5.  I'm predicting a 4 or 5 next time.

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