Posted by: Joan Spiller | May 27, 2012

Scary foods (e.g: Crème brûlée)

I’m going to guess that every cook – no matter how good they are – has a few things on their “I am a little scared to go there” list. What are yours? Mine include Crème Brûlée,  croissants, hollandaise sauce and (fresh) pasta.

My list used to include Risotto, Spring rolls and Beef Wellington however I’ve actually felt the fear and cooked ’em anyway – and now can make them all quite effortlessly, every time.

I have a confession to make though.. One of my bad habits in the kitchen is the fact that I will read a recipe and then go “oh I so want to make this!” and off I charge.

I tend not to refer back to the recipe, I just rock on with it and most times it works fine but some times – not so much. (Then it’s ALWAYS the $#@! recipe’s fault, of course) 😉

IN my defence, I read recipe books for fun so do have a lot of info just “simmering” there, ready to be called upon but yeah .. still not always good! 😉

So I’ve tried making pasta from scratch before. It sucked. It was just something I derived NO pleasure from doing. Not helped by the fact it wasn’t a nice texture, even after I sourced the elusive 00 flour! That one is in the top 3 of stuff I need to master.

I refuse to even talk about the croissant cock up.

And the hollandaise sauce incident still gives me nightmares. I dislike mayonnaise making with a passion. Although I did learn an important lesson about not trying something new for a dinner party without having a back up!

Crème brûlée I’ve made twice. Once they set (yay!) but the crunchy topping didn’t work. The other time .. well .. let’s just say scrambled eggs and sugar: Not a nice dessert.

So, crème brûlée was on the list of recipes to master this year. And I think I’ve done it! The secret? There’s more than one..

1. Follow the recipe. Turns out Gordon Ramsay could be a better cook than me (sigh)

2. Trust your instincts. I took them out when I thought they were set, which was 5 mins earlier than the recipe called for. They’re perfect ..I know my oven.  Thank goodness!

3. As always: Best quality ingredients are key. It felt so extravagant using an entire vanilla pod but it was so worth it.

And so here it is – my successful nemesis recipe for crème brûlée – let me know how it goes!

Gordon Ramsay’s crème brûlée recipe

300ml double cream*
130ml milk
40g vanilla sugar**
4 egg yolks
Vanilla sugar to sprinkle on top and make the hard “topping”

Heat the milk and cream until just about to boil, stirring in 1 dessertspoon of vanilla sugar as it boils.

Lightly whisk together the remaining sugar and egg yolks.

Just look at those gorgeous vanilla seeds! NOM! I used these ones picked up at the Wgtn food show.

Strain the mixture. This gets rid of any chunky bits of vanilla pod, but allows the tasty seeds through. I just used a cheapie plastic strainer. Nothing fancy required..

Slowly pour the mixture into the egg and sugar mix, whisking the entire time.

Pour into a jug and divide evenly between lightly greased tea cups or ramekin dishes. I used a rice bran spray to do this job then spread it thinly with a paper towel.

Fill a large roasting tin half full of boiling water, put the dishes in and bake at 180C for 10-15 minutes until just set. Dish size matters! Think about it when you’re checking your puds k

Allow to cool and place in the fridge until required. Dust the top of the crème brulee with a little vanilla laced icing (confectioner’s) sugar and then use a blowtorch to caramelise the sugar. Don’t have one? Pop them under a hot grill.. but watch closely!

These are pre-topping so I have yet to sprinkle icing sugar on them and set fire to ’em!

* There’s a bunch of conflicting stories on what this is, here in New Zealand. I have used ordinary cream – with poor result. Today I used the pottle of thickened cream. It was odd, watching it melt down in the pot but it worked fine.

**Vanilla sugar is something I use a lot of simply because I can! I have a container in the pantry filled with white sugar (and also one with caster sugar) and a “pre loved” vanilla pod. It makes the sugar incredibly fragrant and is beautiful when added to muffins or fruit dishes that vanilla complements.




  1. I like your blog very much even though I am good at cooking at all. Your entries make me very hungry (^-^)


    • Sorry for making you hungry *grin* I am glad you’re enjoying it – I have tons of simple food ideas if you ever need one flick me a request k!


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