I'm having trouble getting my creme brulee to thicken up. I'm wondering if I should add a little gelatine to the mix.

I had a look around the net and couldn't see anyone doing this, which makes me wonder if it's possible or not. I've a little about gelatine and it seems like it would survive the heat of the oven.

Is there any reason this wouldn't work?

  • Of course, it wouldn't be Crème Brûlée anymore. The Wikipedia has a decent recipe – BaffledCook Aug 6 '12 at 9:27
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    Just guessing but I think you are probably not tempering the eggs properly. When you add the hot cream to the eggs you maybe 'cooking' the egg and preventing it from properly thickening the custard. Alton Brown demonstrates a proper creme brulee on Good Eats that may help you get it right rather than finding a fix for doing it 'wrong'. – Cos Callis Aug 6 '12 at 12:59
  • I agree with @CosCallis, custards should not need stabilizers. I've made dozens of batches of both crème brûlée and crème caramel and have never even once worried about whether or not they'd "survive the heat of the oven". – Aaronut Aug 6 '12 at 14:48

You can use gelatin, but you then would have to change the process slightly. For a start, you wouldn't bake the custard. Instead you would essentially be making an egg-enriched panna cotta.

You would hydrate the gelatine with cold water, make your custard, then add the gelatine, mix and portion, then set in the fridge. How much gelatine you use depends on how much liquid you are trying to set - using powdered gelatin, one sachet usually sets 570ml.

Of course, that is cheating and you should really bake creme brulee with no gelatin. If you're having trouble getting regular creme brulee to set you may have a bad recipe - try another!

  • Wouldn't the gelatin react poorly to the heat of the torch when adding the sugar? Causing the top of the creme brulee to liquify and letting the sugar soak in rather than form a crisp crust? – Cos Callis Aug 6 '12 at 12:52

Anything that doesn't survive the 150° C oven is not going to survive a 1500° C blow torch.

Gelatin has a melting point of about 35° C, maximum. It is a thermoreversible reaction, unlike the coagulation of eggs, which is thermoirreversible. Eggs set well in an oven, which is why they are used in so many baking recipes; gelatin does not, which is why it is almost never used in baking recipes (except as a stabilizer for fillings after the baking process is done).

You are definitely barking up the wrong tree here. If your custard is melting as opposed to setting in the oven, then there is something seriously wrong with either your technique or your recipe. The addition of gelatin is unlikely to help and, as stated above, even if it does help the custard set firmer, it then essentially becomes a panna cotta and you will not be able to caramelize sugar on top of it.

Summary: Don't pursue this. Find out where/why your custards are going wrong, and fix it.

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