The most exciting part of eating a crème brûlée is the crispy caramelized top. The rasping sound of the spoon breaking through the crust already gets my mouth watering. Eating it is even better.
Most crème brûlée recipes call for using a blowtorch to get that perfect almost-burnt finish. The high heat from the flame caramelizes the sugar, which then hardens as it cools.
But what if you don’t have a kitchen torch at home?
Don’t worry, you can still enjoy this decadent dish without a torch. You just need to find a way to apply heat to the sugar on top without overheating the custard below.
Here are three simple tricks on how to cook creme brulee without a torch.
This can be a dedicated broiler or you can use the broiler/grilling function in your normal oven. The most important thing is that the heat comes from the top only.
Here’s how to broil a crème brûlée to a crispy goodness.
I’m assuming you already know how to prepare the custard. If you don’t, here’s a good recipe from BBC Food. You can replace the vanilla pod it recommends with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
When your custard is read and has set in the fridge for a few hours, add your sugar on top as usual and then place the ramekins in a broiler for 3-5 minutes.
As I mentioned, you can also use your normal oven but make sure you turn on the grilling/broiler function where the heat comes from the top.
Keep a close eye on the crème brûlée to avoid burning the sugar. It takes just a few minutes for it to caramelize.
After it’s done, remove the ramekins and let the crème brûlée sit for a few minutes. Your dessert is now ready.
If you have a candle or grill lighter around, it can also caramelize the sugar in a crème brûlée but it will be much slower than a torch or a broiler.
But if you are patient, the results will be as good.
To speed up the process, try spreading a thinner layer of sugar on the crème brûlée. It will melt faster.
As with a kitchen torch, make sure you melt the sugar evenly using the lighter. Move it around until all the sugar is caramelized. Then leave it to set and harden.
3. Use a hot spoon
Here’s an interesting one – use a red hot spoon.
Take your least favourite spoon and place it over the stove. When it becomes red hot, remove it, taking care not to get burned, and place it on the layer of sugar on the custard.
You’ll need to repeat this several times to get a good crusty top.
As with the lighter, it’s slow and tedious. You may have to sacrifice and spread a thinner layer of sugar on the custard to speed up the caramelization.
A torch is still the best option
These life hacks are okay if you prepare crème brûlée occasionally. But if it’s a weekly or daily dessert in your home, you are better off investing in a good quality kitchen torch.
They are not that expensive and they work brilliantly.
They come with a canister attached. You add butane to the canister and the torch is ready to use.
The flame from the torch can get as hot as 1600 degrees Celsius, melting the sugar on the crème brûlée in seconds.
It’s fast, it’s easier to use and it produces a tastier crème brûlée than either of the methods above.