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Recipe for :

Crème Brûlée

This recipe has been reproduced with the kind permission of Pierre Beghin. Pierre runs hands-on cookery classes in Islington - la cuisine de Pierre. Each class features a complete lunch or dinner menu with three seasonal recipes that can easily be prepared by those new to cooking. A chance to learn the art of entertaining "à la française"

"When I was about five or six, I had to stand on a chair to peek inside the pots and pans to see what my mother was cooking. A few years later, I used to invite friends around to make crêpes on Wednesdays . . ."

"Pierre Beghin - patient, unflappable and a marvellous cook"
Mary Gold - The Times
"I left feeling like I was halfway to becoming a domestic goddess and much more confident about my cooking abilities".
Diana Milne - Islington Gazette
"In a few hours, Pierre managed to convince me that cooking a meal from scratch is tastier and more enjoyable than reaching for a ready meal - it really is a great way to unwind".
Caroline Jones - Top Santé, Health & Beauty

Ingredients

290ml / 1/2 pint double cream
1 vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla essence
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon caster sugar

For the topping:
caster sugar

Method

  • Put the cream with the vanilla pod, if using, into a saucepan and heat to scalding point (just below boiling point), making sure it does not boil. Remove the vanilla pod.
  • Preheat the oven to 170°C / 325°F / Gas mark 3
  • Beat the egg yolks with the sugar and when light and fluffy, stir in the warm cream. Place the mixture in the top of a double saucepan, or in a heatproof bowl set over, not in, a saucepan of simmering water, over a low heat. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. If using vanilla essence, add it now.
  • Pour the custard into an ovenproof serving dish, place in a roasting pan half-filled with hot water (a bain-marie) and bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes to create a good skin on top. Refrigerate overnight. On no account break the top skin.
  • Next day preheat the grill to its highest setting.
  • Sprinkle the top of the custard with a 5mm / 1/4 inch even layer of caster sugar. To do this, stand the dish on a tray or large sheet of greaseproof paper and sift the sugar over the dish and the tray or paper. In this way you will get an even layer of sugar. Collect the sugar falling wide for re-use.
  • Put the custard under the very hot grill, as close as you can get it to the heat. The sugar will melt and caramelize before the custard underneath it boils. Watch carefully, turning the custard if the sugar is browning unevenly. (A better result is obtained with a blowtorch.)
  • Allow to cool completely before serving. The top should be hard and crackly.

To serve:

  • Crack the top with the serving spoon and give each diner some custard (which should be creamy and just set) and a piece of caramel.

Note:
Creme brûlée is also good made in individual ramekins. In this case, bake the custard for only 5 minutes.

Serves 4

Pierre Beghin

       
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