I’m going a little bit sous-vide crazy at the moment. Since the arrival of my brand new vacuum sealer the fun just doesn’t stop with temperature controlled cooking. So far i’ve done meat in the water bath but how does a dessert grab you? Yes it’s entirely possible. Using the ChefSteps method of setting custard-based desserts in a jar has opened up a wide range of sweet possibilities, so let’s give it a go.
My attempts at making creme brûlée the traditional way have been mixed to say the least. Quite often the set hasn’t been right, especially in the early days, resulting in a gloopy mess. Other problems have also been overdoing the blowtorching on the top which melts the first layer of custard – so fingers crossed, this will be the first ever ‘perfect’ creme brûlée that I turn out of my kitchen.
The recipe, like most sous vide ones, is simple. To begin with I set the water bath at 80C (176F) and began to make the custard. Here are the ingredients:
300ml Double Cream
1 tbsp Vanilla Extract (or the seeds from 1 Vanilla Pod)
6 Egg Yolks
50g Caster Sugar, plus a little more for glazing later
All you need to do is combine the yolks, vanilla and sugar in a bowl and whisk together until smooth and combined. Heat the double cream in a pan over a medium-high heat until simmering before pouring a little into the eggs. Whisk that in to temper the mix and then add the rest in. I told you this was simple.
Pour the mix back into the pan and heat until 65-70C (149F-158F) which will help the mixture thicken that touch more effectively beginning the cooking process. Sieve the mix into a jug and skim off any bubbles or foam with a spoon. I used specialist jars that I bought from Amazon by the name of ‘Ball Mason Jars’ with a handy screwtop and a capacity of 135ml making them ideal for small desserts.
The reason for using these particular jars is that the cap and the screw are two separate pieces so when you’re cooking in the sous-vide the jars won’t shatter. Just screw the jars so they are just closed or ‘fingertip’ tight as the guys at ChefSteps call it. This is to allow air in and out of the jar during cooking erasing the chance of a breakage.
I delicately placed my creme brûlée’s in the water bath for an hour. As they went in a steady stream of air bubbles began erupting from the lids. This is a good sign as it shows that the lid’s aren’t too tight and that you won’t be picking broken glass out of your sous-vide later on. Towards the end of the cooking time I filled a dish with ice cold water ready to place the desserts in.
Picking these pot’s out of the water bath with tongs is a tricky task. The guys at ChefSteps make it look so simple. Eventually I had my grip perfect and gently lifted each jar out of the bath and into the cold water to halt the cooking process and begin to chill the custards. It’s best to make these ahead of time because they do need to sit in the fridge for at least 4-6 hours. In my case, I went for overnight.
Once out of the fridge you can either use a blowtorch or a hot grill to glaze the tops of the custards. I chose the grill option and sprinkled a thin layer of caster sugar on top of the cream and glazed it for around 1-2 minutes. The results at this point looked like the real deal.
I left the creme brûlée’s to set before cracking the tops with a spoon. The texture was unlike any i’d ever had before. I expected the top to be quite liquid from the heat of the grill and the custard to be a little more set but the texture throughout, astonishingly, was the same. These pots are absolutely delicious and so easy to make! Why i’ve persisted with the bain marie method for so long is a mystery when sous-vide is 100% the way to go.
I also experimented by plunging one of the pots into a bowl of warm water before running a flat bladed knife around the edge. To further amaze me the cream came out perfectly formed onto the plate – it looked so professional! I didn’t miss the sugar top on this one although you can still glaze it with a blowtorch – this is actually a famous dessert from Gordon Ramsay’s early days at Royal Hospital Road that Ramsay garnished with dried apple slices and a jus Granny Smith.
I’m a complete convert to the sous-vide method of creme brûlée. These are by far the best pot’s of French goodness that i’ve ever had. The possibilities of sous-vide really have become apparent now with so many ideas going around in my head about what to make next. What a wonderful discovery.