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In creme brulée, does milk/cream really have to be brought up to simmering point before being adde to the egg/sugar mixture and being put in oven in bain marie? Seems a waste of time to wait for it to cool down. Is there a reason for the simmering point?

Thanks. Ann

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3 Answers

I've never heated up the cream. I combine the eggs with the sugar and vanilla extract, then combined the mixture with 2 cups cream and whisked it all together. It comes out great every time.

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As a counterpoint to daniel's answer - whom I'm sure, in all sincerity, makes perfect crème brûlées every time and I don't doubt that you can do the same by following his method - I have made a great many (albeit substantially less than five thousand) of them and have never heated anything except the water that goes into the bain-marie.

As long as you strain the mixture and use a bain-marie, and fill that up sufficiently with hot water, it won't curdle. At least not in my oven or in any of the ovens I've used in the past. That is in fact what a bain-marie is for. You might think that the radiant heat of the oven would overheat the custard anyway, but... it doesn't. Not as long as you use a relatively low oven setting and don't use the top rack.

As I said, I haven't made five thousand, but I've made several hundred and have never experienced curdling despite the lack of tempering.

If you want to prove it to yourself, then next time you make it, pour one serving into a ramekin before tempering the rest of the mixture. If they turn out the same, then you can skip that step entirely.

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This is how I've always made creme brulee (maybe not 5000, but a lot). I only temper the eggs if they're going to be added to something that's already hot. –  sourd'oh Sep 7 '13 at 17:03
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you need to temper the eggs, which basically means pre-ccoking them slightly so they can withstand the higher temperatures of the oven without curdling. getting your cream to the simmering point then whisking it into the eggs achieves this goal. there is no need whatsoever to let things cool down; bring cream to boil w/whatever flavourings you're using (e.g. vanilla beans), pour in a slow but steady stream into a bowl of your whisked-to-pale-yellow-ribbon egg yolks & sugar, pour through a very fine mesh strainer, skim off any foam, pour into ramekins, bake.

(For reference, I've made approximately five thousand creme brulees in the last year, this is the method I use every time).

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