History of Food

History of Food

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

National Creme Brulee Day

Crème brûlée also known as burnt cream, crema catalana, or Trinity cream is a dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a contrasting layer of hard caramel. It is normally served cold. The custard base is traditionally flavored with vanilla, but is also sometimes flavored with lemon or orange (zest), rosemary, chocolate, coffee, liqueurs, or other fruit.
The exact origins are uncertain. The origins of crème brûlée (pronounced krehm broo-LAY) are very much in contention, with the English, Spanish, and French all staking claim. The Spanish have taken credit for this sensuous custard as "crema catalana" since the eighteenth century, while the English claim it originated in seventeenth-century Britain, where it was known as "burnt cream" and the English school boys at Cambridge demanded it. It apparently wasn't until the end of the nineteenth century that common usage of the French translation came into vogue, putting it on the map from Paris to Le Cirque in New York City. Its wide recognition today seems to have given the French credit for inventing crème brûlée. 

The earliest known reference of crème brûlée as we know it today appears in François Massialot's 1691 cookbook,and the French name was used in the English translation of this book, but the 1731 edition of Massialot's Cuisinier roial et bourgeois changed the name of the same recipe from "crème brûlée" to "crème anglaise". In the early eighteenth century, the dessert was called "burnt cream" in English.

Crème Brûlée is a French term for what the English refer to as Burnt Cream. The word brulee refers to dishes, such as custards, finished with a sugar glaze.

This simple custard is cooked and cooled. A small amount of sugar is sprinkled on the top of the cooled custard and the sugar is caramelized using a small torch or beneath a broiler.

This classic custard inherits its' delicate flavor from the simple mixture of cream and eggs. Traditional creme brulee does not use any additional flavorings such as vanilla.

The recipe here is an old creme brulee recipe that dates back to 1909. It was taken from The Ocklye Cookery Book by Eleanor L. Jenkinson.

In Britain, a version of crème brûlée (known locally as 'Trinity Cream' or 'Cambridge burnt cream') was introduced at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1879 with the college arms "impressed on top of the cream with a branding iron". The story goes that the recipe was from an Aberdeenshire country house and was offered by an undergraduate to the college cook, who turned it down. However, when the student became a Fellow, he managed to convince the cook.

Crema catalana (Catalan 'Catalan cream'), crema cremada (Catalan 'Burnt cream') or crema de Sant Josep, is a Catalan dish similar to crème brûlée. It is traditionally served on Saint Joseph's Day, March 19, although nowadays it is consumed at all times of year. The custard is flavored with lemon or orange zest, and cinnamon. The sugar in crema catalana is traditionally caramelized under an iron broiler, never with a flame.

Crema catalana has inspired some other Catalan dishes, including Torró de crema,consumed during Christmas time, and crema catalana liqueur.

Crème brûlée flambée
Crème brûlée is usually served in individual ramekins. Discs of caramel may be prepared separately and put on top just before serving, or the caramel may be formed directly on top of the custard, immediately before serving. To do this, sugar is sprinkled onto the custard, then caramelized under a broiler/salamander, with a butane torch (or similar), or by flambéing a hard liquor on it.

Traditional Creme Brulee Recipe

I N G R E D I E N T S
2 1/2 cups heavy cream or 1 1/4 cups heavy cream and 1 1/4 cups light cream
4 large egg yolks, well beaten
1/4 to 1/3 cup superfine sugar*

I N S T R U C T I O N S
Bring cream to a boil, and boil about 30 seconds. Pour it immediately into the egg yolks and whisk them together. Return the mixture to the pan and continue cooking without allowing it to boil. Stir the mixture until it thickens and coats the spoon. Pour the mixture into a shallow baking dish. Refrigerate overnight.

Two hours before the meal, sprinkle the chilled cream with the sugar in an even layer and place it under a broiler preheated to the maximum temperature. The sugar will caramelize to a sheet of brown smoothness. You may need to turn the dish in the grill to achieve an even effect. It is important that this step be done very quickly in order to keep the custard cold and firm and the top crisp and brown.

*The custard in this recipe does not call for sugar. The sweetness is derived from the burnt sugar crust.
Serving size - 4 to 6

The Best Caramelizing Sugar
We tested several types of sugar including superfine, brown sugar, as well as granulated sugar.  Each type worked well but  we liked the flavor of the brown sugar the best. 

You can also purchased flavored caramelizing sugar  which add a delicate hint of flavor to the topping.

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