Tuesday, September 30, 2008

{TWD} Madame Crème Brûlée comes to Tea. . .


. . . with Earl and Lady Grey. A delicious time was had by all.

Cooking notes:

- I chose the tea variation listed under "Playing Around" on page 394 of Dorie's book.

- I made 2/3 recipe because I had 2 egg yolks already in the fridge. This involved a good bit of calculating. Thank goodness for my digital scale that has grams! Here are the quantities I used: 211 grams cream, 1/3 c. milk, 2 yolks, 42 grams sugar, 1 1/3 tsp vanilla.

- I used 2% milk because that's what we have. It worked fine.

- The dogs were a big help with photography.


- In planning for the tea variation, I was very tempted to use Green Tea Mojo but in the end I went with Dorie's recommendation of Earl Grey. Actually, I used a mixture of Earl Grey and Lady Grey tea, freed from their teabags. I lightly ground the tea leaves with a mortar and pestle to release the oils (bergamot orange and lemon). For future reference, 3 teabags = approximately 1 T. loose tea.


Following Dorie's instructions, I warmed the milk to a boil, then steeped the tea for 4 minutes. Or thereabouts. I set the timer incorrectly, so have no idea how long it really steeped.


Next, I strained the tea-milk through cheesecloth. I could likely steep the tea right in the teabag, and eliminate the straining step...


Then the tea-milk is brought to a boil with the cream.

The tea-milk/cream is then added to an egg/sugar/vanilla mixture (which I forgot to photograph).

Rapping the bowl on the counter did not actually dislodge those bubbles, btw. I popped a bunch of them with my (clean) fingers once they were in individual dishes.

I strained the crème into 4 teacups, ending up with about 3/4" liquid in each.


They baked in a 200 degree oven for approximately forever. I truly lost track of how many times I reset the timer. It was maybe 90 minutes total(?) Testing them for done-ness was really tricky. They jiggled with wild abandon. Plus a dark layer (from the tea I suppose) rose to the surface and obscured what was happening beneath. That dark layer later became a skin even though I covered the surface with plastic wrap.


They firmed up nicely in the refrigerator, and it's possible that they could have had less oven time. I went from worrying that they would be raw in the center to worrying that they would be overdone and rubbery.

What I should have been worrying about was caramelizing the sugar. That's when things got ugly.

Caramelizing adventures:

Part One
I decided to use the approach so kindly explained by Sweetcharity in the this week's P&Q section. Being a bit insecure, I also googled the method, and came up with specific directions on how to caramelize sugar.

I wanted to use natural demarara sugar, brushing away those lingering doubts about knowing when it would have darkened since the sugar was already brown. I also dedicated a cup of sugar to the task, since by now I've gathered that there's such a thing as working with too little sugar (who knew?)

Everything was going swimmingly, but I must have let my sugar syrup progress too far, or I cooled it incorrectly. But it got really thick and my attempt to pour and swirl became glop and drop. It did harden, but was pretty thick. We were on a really tight dinner schedule, so I abandoned ship on the caramelizing, stopping after one teacup. My husband and I ate ours without the sugar crust. He said he preferred it that way. Awww, thanks, honey. My mom gave me half her (thick) sugar layer. I was glad to taste it that way, but I honestly preferred it as a custard, too. Or maybe I was just mad at the sugar.


Part Two
I had one remaining teacup of custard, and after a good night's sleep, I decided to go for the broiler method. Visions of four cracked teacups had prevented me from attempting this earlier, but at this point I was willing to sacrifice one teacup for the cause, if it came to that. So I prepared the ice bath and set the cup on it. Dorie explains that this can take from a few seconds to a few minutes under the broiler. It was minutes and minutes for me. I think it's because the custard was so far down into the cups - I just couldn't get it close enough to the broiler. I held it up right to the coil (yes, with my hand in an oven mitt), and eventually (after changing the ice twice) it bubbled. I would have liked it browner, but beggars can't be choosers.


The custard was ever so slightly melty, but my teacup survived a good 10 minutes of broiler time. Snap that photo, and done! I'll have to say it tasted great with that little layer of sugar on top.


The Verdict:

I served this when my mother came to dinner. Crème brûlée is her favorite dessert and Mom has always been a lover of tea. Turns out that Earl Grey is her favorite tea!

These tasted divine - the tea was subtle but present. Luckily they were not rubbery! There was a dark skin on the creme, but it didn't detract. The color was lovely, and the turbinado sugar was a great complement in color and flavor.

The dessert was richer than Croesus, however. (I'd wonder how it would be with using more milk and less cream?) In the end, even though I licked the spoon dry, and even though several of the variations look cool, I don't really anticipate ever cooking this again.

My mom said that when she visited Japan she had tea custard. That might be cool to check out. Here's an intriguing recipe.

Here are some of the also-rans in the tea drawer. We are big tea-drinkers, and this is just the tip of our tea stash iceberg.

This classic dessert was chosen by Mari of Mevrouw Cupcake. You can find the recipe on her post, or on page 393 of Dorie's book, of Baking From My Home to Yours. If you want to see some truly beautiful and creative interpretations of Crème Brûlée, go check scores of other bakers' blogs on the TWD blogroll.



48 comments:

steph- whisk/spoon said...

looks so elegant in the teacup! i bet the tea flavor was great, and glad that your cup was safe under the broiler!

j. d. e. said...

I am so proud of you for making creme brulee! I myself would have been very intimidated. Just think--a year ago, or even four months ago, you would have never made it...
I need to get some bakeware over here and a Dr. Oetker's cookbook and go to town.

Marthe said...

Your Crème Brûlée looks so nice in that teacup!

Your dogs are very cute, are they Australian Sheppards?

Lori said...

you are so dedicated! your post made me laugh - baking time approximately forever. and i'd have resented the sugar, too. i can resent the moon if i try just a little.

Audrey said...

I liked the idea of the earl grey variation, too (but stuck with the tea itself). You were brave than in even tackling the sugar, and your presentation and photos are tres chic!

Prudy said...

I love that you did the tea variation in the tea cup. Perfect. I love you bake time-approximately forever! Mine baked in about 50 minutes, maybe it was a little more shallow?? I'm glad you got your broil version to work out and that it was a hit in the end!

Laura said...

Beautiful job - tea flavor in tea cups is brilliant! I'm glad you finally got to try it with the crunchy sugar top (and of course that you cup didn't shatter).

Loved the "also rans" comment - too funny! Maybe that's because I too have quite a stash of teas (some of which have been in that pantry quite a long time).

Peggy said...

Kudos for trying this! I was too scared of the torch. And your dedication is impressive. I would have given up after the first try. Your pictures look great.

The Food Librarian said...

Oh my! So much work - you are quite dedicated. It is very elegant in a teacup and I want to try it with chai tea next time. Yours are very cute.

Mary Ann said...

It looks delicious! Bravo to you for being brave and trying one of the alternative methods for caramelizing the sugar. YUMMY!

Jamie said...

So pretty and such a beautiful spin on this dessert!

Kimberly said...

Love that last picture. Your sugar syrup episode made me think of the simple syrup I was making for sweet tea this summer. I got distracted leaving the sugar water to boil for approximately 30 minutes. There wasn't even a glop and drop; within seconds of taking it off the burner it was completely solid.

Before we got married I asked my husband if, in our new life together, he would be willing to take out the trash and kill the bugs. Little did he know torching the custards would be added to that list :)

Steph said...

It was so clever of you to make them in tea cups (and in earl grey too!) To make 1/5 of the recipe, I just used the yolk of one peewee egg. I'm not sure if 1 large egg = 2 peewee eggs, but I like to think that!

Cathy said...

So cool that you tried the tea method . . . and used teacups! Now that is MY KIND OF TEA PARTY!!! I love to hear tales of the kind of sacrifices that we TWDers will make for the cause, like risking a beloved teacup in order to carmelize sugar. I am glad that worked out for you -- it LOOKS perfect!!

Your dogs are gorgeous! I'm glad to put some faces to the famous Crumb Eaters!

Jodie said...

Mine took forever to bake, too! I didn't use tea (I just did vanilla), but mine got a darker skin on top, too, so I couldn't see.
Is that you on the floor with your dogs in your blog title pic? :) I love it!

MacDuff said...

These look Ah-maaaaaaazing. I love the Earl Gray idea - someone else did green tea, but this just seems like it would go together perfectly. And it's funny - creme brulee is my mother's favorite, too!

Engineer Baker said...

I love Earl Grey, so this sounds wonderful. And even with all the trials and tribulations, they look amazingly delicious.

chocolatechic said...

It looks absolutely stunning.

What a sweet daughter to do this for your mom.

CB said...

Earl Grey! Oh thats awesome! I totally want to try this "playing around" adaption! Your puppies are so adorable. I bet baking while they are "helping" is 2x the fun huh?
Clara @ iheartfood4thought

Cristine said...

Looks wonderful! My mother-in-law would love this version!

Karen said...

How creative to make yours in tea cups. They look beautiful! I love hearing how differently everyone did this recipe!

Sweet Charity said...

I love that you did earl grey brulees- I'm secretly addicted to bergamot...
Thanks for the mention.
Like I said in the P's & Q's,
the first time I did brulees at home I caramelized sugar in a pot. I poured it on, totally not thinking about how thick the layer would be. It was like a pane of glass, probably as thick as that bullet proof stuff they use in high security buildings. Most of my guests opted to not eat it *shrug*.
Glad the broiler worked out for you in the end!

Em said...

the presentation is fantastic and I love that you did a variation with tea. totally inspired!

Debbie said...

you are so elegant, and your dogs are so lovely! Next time, I'm coming to tea.

pinkstripes said...

Tea infused creme brulee in tea cups! I love it.

Matt's Kitchen said...

This sounds like such and intriguing alternative both in taste and presentation. I love the way it looks in your teacups!

Carol Peterman said...

The next time I make this I will have to try the Earl Gray tea version. I love tea infused things. I am impressed your tea cup survived the broiler and the creme brulee looks beautiful. Maybe someone will surprise you with a nice set of shallow ramekins after your success with this.

dharmagirl said...

what a lovely post! i love that you baked the tea infused custards in tea cups--ingenious!

n.o.e said...

Thanks everyone! This was a fun recipe and not all that hard. Just a bit frustrating being under a time crunch.

j.d.e.- I can't thank you enough for introducing me to Dorie's book and telling me about the group; I'm learning lots and enjoying the results! I'll be interested in seeing what you cook in your new apartment.

Marthe- Yes, our dogs are both Australian Shepherds. The 'blue' one is 11 and the 'red' one is 10. They are enthusiastic, if not coordinated, helpers.

Jodie - My lovely older daughter a.l.e. is the agile one on the floor in my banner photo. My equally lovely younger daughter j.d.e. is baking cookies in the 2nd photo in the right column.

SweetCharity - I actually liked your method and it almost worked. I would have repeated it, but it seemed excessive to do for the lone teacup that remained. Were I to make this again, I'd try the stovetop method again (and there are other cool things that can be done with sugar that is caramelized that way, as I'm sure you know!) I certainly won't use teacups again - something shallower would be much easier.

Nancy

Jaime said...

your top looks nice and caramelized - your broiler method worked just fine! :) i am interested in trying a tea infused version now...

oh and your dogs are so cute!

Diana Evans said...

oh my goodness! great post ...I was just thinking about making some creme brulles for the weekend....great site!!!

natalia said...

Ciao ! I love your dogs ! I chickened out and went to an older recipe because I wanted to wait for a blowtorch. I'm sure that when I'll finally try it it will be the tea version ! (I wish I was there for the fourth cup!)

kittymama said...

I love the earl grey version served in a teacup - very cute! Bravo to you for persevering with the caramelizing. I'm not a creme brulee fan, either, though I think we are a small club.

kim said...

they look adorable in the teacups! great idea to flavor them w/ tea, sounds delicious, and so fitting for the presentation :)

bakingwiththeboys said...

You are dedicated to give both (blowtorch free) methods a shot. At least the tea worked out for you. Sounds like a fabulous addition.

Sandy Smith said...

I am intrigued by your flavoring . . . I love Earl Grey! Nice choice - so elegant.

I, too, used Sweet Charity's method, but having caramelized sugar that way previously, I wasn't too worried about it. I used only 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tbls lt corn syrup, and 11/2 tbls water and it came out beautifully, so maybe that's a good formula. The trick is to be quick - it takes a long time to start to darken, but once it does, it's burned in a flash.

I love the way your broiler version looks - I was too chicken to try that one!!

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

I'm a total fan of Earl Grey tea, so this sounds lovely to me! Fabulous job!

TeaLady said...

Tea brulee in a tea cup. What a great idea. Glad they did turn out for you eventually. I want to try them with Chai Tea. Yours look tasty!

Sherry Trifle - Lovely Cats said...

Such an interesting blog on Creme Brulee. It looks gorgeous in those teacups. I think I might try just the custard sometime.

Bridgett said...

I love this in the teacup...very appealing that way I think. I love the dogs, they are just gorgeous!

Di said...

We drink a lot of tea, too. I have a shelf in my pantry that looks a lot like your tea drawer. =) I like the idea of flavoring the custard with tea (though I'd pick something other than Earl Grey, since I don't really like that). Nice job!

natalia said...

Ciao ! I just got some cream and I'm going for 'your' creme brulee ! The idea of minis galette in the freezer is great so often in the evening one needs a sweet treat !

Pamela said...

It does look delicate and lovely in the teacup. I'm very impressed by the tea selection!

Lynnylu said...

The tea flavor sounds wonderful. Your brulees look great. I love your dogs-so adorable. I have a Yorkie who rules the house, but is a sweetheart.

Annette said...

Great post! Kudos to you for trying the tea infused variation. Your tea stash sounds like mine. I tell myself that I can't buy anymore until some of what I have is gone, but I always cave. There are just too many great teas out there!
Pretty pooches too!!!

Jacque said...

Oooh, that sounds REALLY good... I might have to try that next. I like the color too.

Nice work!

Kevin said...

I like the sound of the tea creme brulee! I am still working on that broiler method as well. I like that spoon.

Jo said...

I love Earl Grey but when I read the variation notes in Dorie's book I have to admit I was a bit leery of trying it but you've convinced me. Now, I'll have to try it.