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Every time I make use of vanilla beans, specifically the seeds contained in the pods, the seeds fall to the bottom of whatever it may be that I am making.

I was wondering if there is a technique to somehow, for lack of a better term, render the seeds suspended inside of say a crème?

I often find myself (and it is not seldom the case with others) scraping the bottom of a crème brûlée trying to get at the bed of vanilla marrow that lies at the very bottom of a ramekin.

This can however sometimes create an appealing visual effect and will not take away from the taste/eating experience, as is the case with a panna cotta if served turned out onto a serving plate.

I realise this may be somewhat of a silly question, but it is something that has popped into my head time and time again in the kitchen.

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    Definitely not a silly question and I think suspension is probably the best word for it :), welcome to Seasoned Advice. Nice to see such a well structured first post. – Doug Feb 22 '15 at 16:36
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    The cream needs to be thick enough at the beginning for the seeds to suspend. Or they will just fall before it sets. Otherwise you can try to crush the seeds into fine particles that will suspend in thinner liquids. – erotavlas Feb 22 '15 at 18:58
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Personally the only way I've ever achieved a good suspension of vanilla in my Brûlée's is by cooking the custard over a bain-marie until thick and... custard like. Once it's nice and thick I'll then pour it into my molds and then bake them for 10-15 min at around 110°c just to finish off. Be very careful not to over cook them the last thing you want, after all that stirring over the bain-marie, is curdled eggs.

The extra thickness of your custard helps stop the vanilla seeds sinking to the bottom. However, you will still get a little sink-age.

The trick for Pannacotta, is to stir them as they begin to set. Or to whip them after they have set and then stick them back in their molds and chill again. This also helps make your Pannacotta lighter and aerated.

  • Ah, I think I may have at times thought of something along those lines, and it does make a lot of sense. I'll definitely try this method the next time I'm making a brûlée! How long does it usually take to achieve the 'right' viscosity by cooking over a bain-marie? – dijkstra Feb 23 '15 at 13:30
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    Depends a lot on quantity I think any where between 15-25min for a 5 litre batch using pre-warmed milk/cream is about right. Birds custard consistency :-) – Doug Feb 23 '15 at 14:27
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I've done this with pannacotta. After cooking, it needs to cool in the fridge to set. When you leave it to set, the seeds settle on the bottom. So:

  1. Get a deep oven tray, fill with ice and water;
  2. Place ramekins/bowls that are filled with mixture into the tray, make sure your water level is not too high;
  3. Stir mixture in ramekins until it is quite cool, which will also be when it's fairly thick; and
  4. Remove to fridge to finish chilling.

I believe this will work with creme brulee too :)

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