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