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Is it possible to finish a creme brulee without a torch? Are there any other creative methods to get the sugar to crisp up on the top of this delicious dessert?

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In my opinion, a blowtorch is a worthwile investment. Do yourself a favour though and buy a proper welding blowtorch in the hardware store - not one of the "cooking" ones. Mine runs on MAPP gas (which is flavourless and unscented, so food doesn't get that gas smell if the flame should go out for any reason) and crisps up crème brulée within a couple of seconds. It also works great for browning meats after cooking them sous-vide. –  adebaumann Aug 14 '13 at 12:47

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The classic method is to do it under the broiler (grill in UK parlance).

You have to watch it carefully, so that you can take it out when it is done but not burned, but otherwise that is is it.

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But a torch is so much more fun! If you make creme brulee often it's worth getting a torch to make the torching event part of the entertainment for your guests. –  cantfork Aug 13 '13 at 1:43

The third (and really old-school) approach which some people use is a branding iron.

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While quaint, the success rate is low, expect burning! –  TFD Aug 13 '13 at 18:42

In Cambridge University England where creme brûlée was often made for the High Table the method was to heat the sugar in a saucepan until is caramelised and then poured over which set in a hard crust. This receipe also known as Trinity Creme dating back to the 1600.

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Interesting ... I would think that if people are concerned with the hot sugar cooking the custard too much, you could put down a layer of granulated sugar first to help insulate it from the hot sugar. (although then the top would be thicker). –  Joe Dec 17 at 13:12

Here are some more alternatives (some really common in kitchens and some, not so much):

  • The broil setting in a toaster oven also works. Don't forget to ice-water bath your ramekins.
  • A BBQ lighter. A little slow, but gets there. The "windproof" ones are better.
  • A piece of red hot charcoal from the fireplace.
  • Hotter heat guns work, but you'll end up warming the custard with the blowing air.
  • CO2 Laser, so you can print Hello Kitty on the custard. (most laser engravers are FDA approved)
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Make the toffee/caramel tops separately some hours earlier, and store in an airtight container

When ready to serve. Line up all the creme's. Have one person carefully placing the tops, while a second person uses the largest torch you have to just blast the middle to cause it to stick to the creme. Fifty can be done in a few minutes just before serving

It just a mater of finding 3 x 4 muffin tins or similar as molds, with the same base size or slightly smaller than your ramekins tops

For an artistic look, make large very thin sheets of toffee/caramel and shatter them into pieces. Poke a couple of large pieces just into the creme at a slight angle to the surface, and then finish with scatter of smaller pieces and crumbs. A very short blast of a large torch will set them in place. much more interesting

Or go overboard and blow some toffee/caramel balls the right size the day before, and use a hot wire cutter (used to cut polystyrene packaging) to make a half sphere to place on top, or invert and fill with creme! (store sugar balls in airtight containers etc...)

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