Crème brûlée or burnt cream is probably the most frequent dessert I make and my favourite along with chocolate mousse. It is light, it is cold and warm, soft and crunchy… Taken from the famous French chef Alain Ducasse’s book (“Le Grand Livre de Cuisine d’Alain Ducasse: Bistrots, Brasseries et Restaurants de Tradition), my crème brûlée recipe calls for half milk and half cream, following the contemporary lightning desserts tendency I observe in the famous chefs’ or confectioners’ recipes. If you have never prepared cream and milk version, do try it.
Crème brûlée (or burnt cream, since the British and the French both claim its invention) is one of the dishes I have always preferred unaltered, only seasoned with vanilla pods. I have always regretted all the modifications. I also think the savoury starter of crème brûlée with foie gras (fat duck’s liver) is the worst thing which can be done with this expensive and wonderful product.
Crème brûlée with matcha is however an exception. Matcha (抹茶) is the Japanese powdered green tea, used in the tea ceremony and in many desserts. Since I am a big green tea drinker, I have always had a feeling I would love it in crème brûlée. Somehow I have never had the occasion to taste it in a restaurant and I couldn’t decide on making it. One day, when I saw it in a restaurant review featured on the Shizuoka Gourmet blog, I felt the time has come to try it.
I haven’t followed any specific recipe. I have simply adapted my usual one, adding matcha. I must proudly say my crème brûlée with matcha was sensational. It was very refreshing, with a slightly bitter, herbaceous and surprisingly sophisticated taste. Even though I am now its avowed fan, frankly I wouldn’t advice serving it to those who hate green tea and to children. (Both would certainly love the basic crème brûlée though.) However, if you like green tea and/or want to be surprised how easily a sophisticated dessert can be produced at home, give it a try!
The only thing I would change next time is straining the liquid before pouring it into the burnt cream dishes. The foam which forms during the mixing process darkens the burnt cream.
If you don’t feel like experimenting with matcha or if you are simply not a fan of this Japanese green tea, you might like the classic Light Crème Brûlée:
TIPS: Do not taste this matcha version (it doesn’t concern the traditional crème brûlée) unless it has spent 12 hours in the fridge. It improves with time. It was excellent after 12 hours, but, after 48 hours in the fridge, I could only define it as fabulous.
Blowtorch is a very good investment since, at least from my experience, it’s impossible to obtain the contrasting textures and temperatures crème brûlée is famous for with an oven broiler (the cream warms up). You can use blowtorch on many other custardy desserts and sweet tarts.
Click here for a few ideas of how to use up the leftover egg whites.
If you don’t have brown cane sugar, you can use caster sugar to burn, but the taste is worse.
If you travel to France and order burnt cream in an unknown restaurant, I would strongly advise asking if it’s burnt just before being served. I had several times an unpleasant surprise of soggy caramel and a uniform temperature in restaurants where the cream is burnt before the opening hours and sits for several hours in the fridge.
Special equipment: a blowtorch
Preparation: about 2 hours+ min. 12 hours in the fridge (the best is to wait 48 hours)
Calories (the whole batch, using skimmed milk and including the burnt sugar): about 1600 kcal
Ingredients (serves 4):
5 egg yolks
250 ml/8,5 fl oz/about 1 cup milk
250 ml/8,5 oz/about 1 cup liquid cream (without any thickeners; I have used cream with 25% fat content)
4 teaspoons matcha
4 slightly heaped tablespoons caster sugar
about 50 g/about 1/4 cup cane sugar (but not the moist one!)
Put the milk and the cream in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, put aside for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven at 100°C or 120°C if it’s the old oven type .
Put the yolks, the sugar and the matcha in a blender or food processor and mix it.
Add the warm – not hot! – milk with cream and mix again for a couple of minutes.
Strain it to eliminate the foam and pour the mixture into six burnt cream dishes or other small shallow ramekins.
Bake it for approximately 45 minutes. (The custards are ready when only their centres are slightly trembling when moved).
Let them cool down. Put into the fridge for at least 12 hours (but it would be even better to leave them for 48 hours).
Just before serving take the creams out of the fridge and pat dry with paper towel (water drops will appear on the surface and they will make the burning process difficult).
Sprinkle with cane sugar and caramelise it with a special blowtorch.
Serve immediately while the top is still warm and crunchy and the cream below stays very cold.