Crème brûlée is a flawless dessert but, unless you have a kitchen torch, you're probably not making them at home. But the Food Network claims to have a hack for getting that perfect, caramelised, crunchy sugar layer using a simple metal measuring cup. Whether it actually works is a mixed bag, though.
Photos by Claire Lower.
I have a kitchen torch, but I spent many sad, brûlée-less years without one, so I wanted to see if it really was that easy to get that glassy sugar crust using something pretty much everyone already has. (Also I just wanted to get paid to make and eat many jars of crème brûlée.)
As the above video explains, the idea is pretty simple: Make your crème brûlée as you usually would — I used ChefSteps sous-vide recipe because it is easy and flawless — and sprinkle on a good bit of sugar. Then, instead of torching your wondrous custard, place a metal measuring cup on the stove to get the bottom really, really hot. Grab the handle with a towel or oven mitt, and gently press the bottom of the measuring cup onto the sugar. It should sizzle and pop and, when you pull the cup away, a crisp, sugary shell should be left behind.
I had a few doubts about this. For one, the preview image from the Facebook video shows a crème brûlée with an uneven, still partially granulated sugar topping. I also found it interesting that they didn't give us a good look at the top of the crème brûlée or the bottom of the measuring cup once Kathie Lee had done her thing.
Obviously, a side by side comparison was in order, so I made a bunch of crème brûlée — not the white chocolate pudding from the above video — and brûlée'd them two ways. The one I torched turned out just fine, though there was a small burnt spot as a result of impatience on my part.
The measuring cupped custard didn't fare as well. There was a crust alright, but it was a bit uneven, and a good portion of the sugar stuck to my measuring cup.
Also, now my measuring cup is sad. (I cleaned it, but it looks pretty much the same.)
Though this hack technically works, there are issues. Not only did the cup pull off a portion of my sugar — a terrible sin — it got all gunked up, meaning you would have to clean and then reheat the cup for each pot of crème brûlée, which would be annoying. So I'll be sticking with my torch, and I recommend you do the same.
How to Make White Chocolate Crème Brûlée [Food Network]