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This may be a difficult question to answer but if you have any recommendations, I would greatly appreciate it.

I’m going to be opening up a small a home owned desert business and I would like to sell mini crème brûlée. It’s hard to keep the top crunchy and if you pre-torch it and leave it in the fridge the topping will be ruined.
I was thinking of torching them right before the customer picks an order up, but if they decide to put it in the fridge, when they go back to it and bite into it it’ll be really soggy. Or if they order a dozen of them for a party the next day, the next day the topping will be super soggy.

I was just wondering if there was a way to keep the crunchy sugar top crunchy for long-ish periods of time especially because the dessert itself needs to be refrigerated and can’t really be outside the fridge for too long. Please help!

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  • Why not ask them if they will be eating straight away - if they aren't just sell with one of those packs of sugar you get with your coffee and tell them to sprinkle and put under the grill for a few minutes – Gamora May 6 '20 at 9:52
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    Can you torch them and remove the crust? Then place he crusts in a separate container and tell the customer to apply the tops right before consumption? – MonkeyZeus May 6 '20 at 16:14
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    Depending on your jurisdiction, selling food can have significant legal requirements. I strongly suggest you investigate the laws and regulations in your area. For example, the areas I'm familiar with don't permit selling food which wasn't prepared in a commercial kitchen, and require a variety of inspections and certifications of both the facility and the individuals in charge. I wish you good fortune in your venture, but in many places there's a lot more to a food-based business than just making the food in your kitchen and selling it. – Makyen May 6 '20 at 20:12
  • @Makyen: indeed, some people in the US get some legal trouble for their kids' lemonade stand -- these need business permits, adhering to health codes, kitchen inspections, stuff like that. – Quora Feans May 6 '20 at 21:59
  • Thank you all for your great answers, I really appreciate it! @Makyen great point, you’re absolutely right and I’ve done the research on that for my state.. thank you so much for listing that though! :) – Mckenna May 7 '20 at 6:20
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The question you are asking has no technological solution - you cannot put caramel on something wet and preventing from becoming wet. So you are looking at logistical solutions, and you have basically listed them already.

For eating on premises, you keep the custard in the fridge and add the sugar and torch just before serving, as you mentioned. This is so well-suited and common, that I don't think anybody has had the need to develop any alternatives.

For eating later at home, there are two options. One is as you said - you caramelize when selling, and the buyer has to live with the choice between eating it soon or eating it later without a snappy crust. The second is the one used by supermarkets and mentioned in comments - you package coarse dry brown sugar separately, and the customer has the choice between producing a good caramel crust at home (which is time-consuming and not everybody has the needed tools) or eating a custard with sprinkled brown sugar that has not been actually caramelized into a crust.

A variation of the "package the sugar" along option is to package caramel along, either as a whole disc or ground into sugar-sized crystals. It doesn't require the customer to caramelize at home (so the tool and time drawbacks are eliminated), but it is clearly separate from the custard, making it less like real creme brulee.

All two (or three) solutions fall short of the ideal, but as far as I am aware, you can't do better than that. You can just choose which negative is the most acceptable for you and your customers.

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    Maybe a caramel cage or disk? Or some kind of cookie that it can be topped with at home? Or crumbled caramel? – Rob May 6 '20 at 10:22
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    I've had the supermarket type and a few seconds under a very hot grill works OK. Once (in France) I've had a version with a caramelised sugar disc to drop on top. That's a 3rd option. – Chris H May 6 '20 at 10:27
  • Take an example from Japanese Onigiri - filled rice balls wrapped in seaweed. The seaweed would get soggy in minutes, so the seaweed is wrapped separately and you put it together just before eating. I think something similar may work for you @Mckenna, although it may be more effort than it's worth. – GdD May 6 '20 at 11:34
  • @GdD Solution I've seen in the shop, but not tried, was caramel rings packaged separately. Customer just had to put them on the custard before eating. Customer was supposed to open foil package with caramel ring just before eating. It has been done, so we know it is at least possible. – Mołot May 6 '20 at 15:35
  • I considered suggesting a caramel plate, was unsure whether it is doable in the sense of achieving a thin enough caramel plate that it can be bitten through easily, and whether it is that different from the "toasted" or brown sugar in the packets. Thank you everybody for confirming it is doable, I'll mention it in the answer for completeness. – rumtscho May 6 '20 at 15:42
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Personally, I would experiment a few-times with:
Boiling sugar to different degrees close to "hard-crack" temperatures, pour into "discs" on parchment paper.
Place disc on top of crème brûlée and tape a piece of quality paper-towel (Viva) over them and refrigerate.
See how long they remain fresh looking.

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    nice idea but please Do Not Write Long Texts in Title Case Form, it just makes it more difficult to read. – Luciano May 6 '20 at 12:12

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