After retiring from teaching in school, I’ve been a stay-at-home mother and a home cook for many years, developed a deeper love of cooking for the family.
When Leon, my dear son, asked me if I’d like to guest post on Lifehack, I felt honored and anxious at the same time. Lifehack is one of the authority blogs, that I’ve subscribed and enjoyed reading for a long time, talking about tips and hacks on making life easier and more effective. I feel anxious about what I should share with all the loyal readers and visitors of Lifehack. All of the sudden, one popular French dessert came to my mind. That’s crème brulee.
Crème Brulee is a classic French dessert, that literally means “burnt cream”. I’m really fascinated by the smooth, rich, creamy custard, topped with a glassy layer of caramelized crust. It’s so enjoyable after a meal, served either cold or warm.
To burn and caramelize the sugar takes only seconds, but I feel it takes too long to bake the custard in a “hot water bath” (“hot water bath” is a cooking method. Have the custard sit in a deep tray that filled half way with warm water) in an oven.
I like delicious foods, yet love easy or quick cooking ways even more. Here’s the experiment I made the classic crème brulee in a non-traditional way without an oven. I was pretty satisfied with the results. My daughter, a dessert taster, couldn’t identify that they were not from our oven compared to those I baked before. The texture of the custard was as smooth and creamy as those baked in an oven.
So, if you don’t have an oven or for whatever reason you don’t want to use an oven, you still can cook and enjoy this beautiful dessert. All you need is to have a wok, or a steamer or a deep pot, apart from the ingredients. I used a wok to steam the dessert. Best still, the steaming method is eco-friendly because you’d use less energy and time to heat up a wok than an oven.
Serves 3 (prepare 3 ramekins, each 150ml capacity)
- 4 egg yolks, room temperature
- 200ml thickened cream, room temperature
- 100ml milk, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons of caster sugar
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (if you use vanilla beans, please see the note below)
Separate egg yolks and egg whites carefully. I love all kitchen gadgets, especially this egg separator. It helps me easily separate yolks and whites with less failure. The egg whites are so clean that I can save them for baking some meringue cookies.
Stir caster sugar into egg yolks. Add thickened cream, milk and vanilla extract and combine well. Don’t beat too hard because you don’t want too many bubbles produced on the surface of the mixture. The surface of the end product won’t be smooth otherwise.
Drain the mixture through a fine sieve to ensure you have a very smooth custard.
Divide mixture into three ramekins. Here’s the secret trick to produce smooth custard surface after steaming.
Cover with foil and put in a wok or steamer with boiling water, cook over high-medium heat for 15 minutes. The foil will prevent the custard surface from being over-cooked before the whole custard is cooked through, as well as avoid any steam from being condensed on the surface. While steaming, you should see some steam releasing from the wok or steamer.
After 15 minutes, turn off the heat. Let the custard sit in the wok or steamer for another 10 minutes. Remove from wok, take away the foil and let cool completely before chilling in the fridge, covered, for 1 hour or so.
Transfer the chilled custard from the fridge, generously sprinkle caster sugar on top. Caramelize the sugar with a kitchen torch to your liking.
Enjoy the smooth crème brulee topped with the crunchy, caramelized layer on the go.
- You can use a vanilla bean to replace the vanilla extract if you like. Use a sharp knife to cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the inside content and seeds. Warm the cream and milk in a saucepan. Add the vanilla content and seeds, simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover. Let the flavour of vanilla infuse in the milk mixture for a few minutes. Then follow the above steps to add egg yolks and sugar to make custard. Drain through a fine sieve into ramekins.
- If you don’t have a wok or steamer, you can just simmer the sifted custard mixture until almost boils. Then chill it until it sets or when you need it.
I do hope you like my sharing here. Do you have any other quick methods to make crème brulee?
Check out the author’s food blog, Christine’s Recipes for more easy Chinese and Western recipes.