Sunday, January 3, 2010

Vanilla Crème Brûlée & Matcha

I have some hoarding tendencies. Giz likes to make fun of me for it. When I go somewhere and buy something that is native to that location (or a rarity), I don't want to use it. For me, there is more enjoyment in keeping items to know that I have them (and the memory associated with them) than there is in using up the item. For example, when determining whether it's time to stock up on wine, I don't even consider the bottles I've collected from Turkey, France or Salt Spring Island. R and I told ourselves that we would drink the bottle of Champagne we bought in Reims (a city in the Champagne region) for a special occasion... but after a year of special occasions (graduations, weddings, buying a home, new years, etc.), no one occasion seemed to merit opening the bottle. So, logically, I would have to deduce that I don't really want to open the bottle.

I had the same feeling about the Tahitian vanilla beans I got from Julia. In her letter, accompanying the vanilla beans, I believe she wrote, "Can't wait to see what you make with these!" But, I knew I really didn't want to use them. After I use them, I won't have them anymore and then I won't be able to admire them anymore (yes, I occasionally take them out of the freezer just to look at them).

Being that it has been almost a year since I received the beans, I thought it was time to actually put them to use. Plus, I received this crème brûlée set as a wedding gift.

After a moment of silence (in honour of the vanilla bean), I slit one apart to make this recipe:

Vanilla Crème Brûlée

6 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
6 teaspoons granulated sugar (or 8 -12 teaspoons packed brown sugar).

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Whisk yolks and 6 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl to blend. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean. Gradually whisk the cream into the sugar. Divide mixture among 6 - 3/4 cup custard cups or ramekins. Arrange dishes in 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Pour enough hot water into pan to come halfway up sides of dishes.
Bake custards approximately 35-40 minutes until the custard is set. Do not overbake or your custard will be rubbery. Remove the pan from the oven and remove custard cups from the water. Allow custards to cool before placing in the refrigerator. Chill overnight.

Two hours before serving:
Preheat broiler. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar atop each custard. Place dishes on small baking sheet. Broil until sugar just starts to caramelize, rotating sheet for even browning, about 2 minutes. Chill until caramelized sugar hardens, about 2 hours.


So - it turns out that I'm kind of a moron. I didn't know that the set wouldn't come with the fuel/butane needed to work the torch. My friends and I momentarily tried to use a bbq-starter.

Yeah...not so effective.

So - we went with the broiling option.

I'm going to need to continue perfecting crème brûlée. The recipe said to not overcook, but I'm pretty sure it needed more time in the oven. I'm still getting used to the oven in this house, which is probably about 25-30% slower than my previous oven. The flavours were really good, but the custard was not thick enough.

The next day, I tried to cook the remaining portions to give them more time in the oven. Even with an extra 15 minutes in the oven, it still lacked perfect texture. So the sporadic mission will continue.

While trying to figure out what to do with the crème brûlée, I had my first exposure to the Japanese green tea, matcha. My friend recently spent some time in Japan and brought me some of the tea along with the traditional bamboo whisk used to stir the tea.

Here's a video showing how you make the tea:

To me it tasted like something you would put in a smoothy for its auto-immune benefits -- apparently it's an acquired taste.

Note to self: don't drink matcha after 12pm. I had a couple of ounces at 5pm and was up until 4:30am. Then again, I don't handle caffeine very well. I think I'm going to give in a try in the morning -- maybe it'll give more energy at work.



kat said...

oh we are the same way I say looking at the bag of Memphis grits in my pantry

That Girl said...

I'm the same way - I love picking up local specialties when I travel, but then I don't want to use them, because who knows when I'll be back!

Ricki said...

Yes, I think Matcha IS a bit of an acquired taste, but I was hooked by the end of my first cup. Now I can't go a day without it (though I also learned the hard way never to drink it past noon--too many nights w/o sleep!!) If you're not crazy about the tea, try making matcha chocolate truffles--mine were a huge hit with my honey. :)

noble pig said...

Be still my heart, this is my kinda dessert.

Adam said...

I think alot of us do the same thing. We save, save, save for that moment, and just don't wanna use the item. Sometimes in my house, that's how things go bad :)

Beautiful job on the creme brulee. Vanilla beans are like little droplets of awesomeness :)

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Cre4me brulee is one of my many possibilities. Hey how about matcha creme brulee for a kick.

Julia said...

Your brulees look good to me! it's hard to see if they are undercooked, but here are some thoughts: if you start with cold water (in your water bath) they will take longer. If you cover them when they cook, they will cook more evenly. To test if they are done, shake the dish a little -- I use a pair of tongs -- the custard should wiggle a little in the center and be firm on the outside. Also, you could try baking a 350 (a fine temp for a regular oven, and good if you're running low). And another thought on the recipe -- it doesn't look like you heated the cream. This will change the way you add it to the eggs and also the texture. Just a thought.

Glad you enjoyed the flavor!! And sorry to have missed this post earlier -- I was out of town when you posted. Let me know if you need more :)

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