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My Crème Brulee did not set.

Recipe:

2 cups heavy cream
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup light brown sugar

Directions
Heat cream in heavy saucepan just until bubbles form around edge of pan. In double boiler top, with electric mixer, beat yolks with granulated sugar until thick and light yellow. Gradually stir in cream.
Place over hot, not boiling water, cook, stirring constantly, until mixture coats metal spoon, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla.
Strain custard into shallow 1 quart baking dish. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
Before serving, carefully sift brown sugar evenly over surface. Set dish in baking pan, surrounded with ice. Run under broiler just until sugar melts slightly & caramelizes.

Instead of a 1 quart dish, I used smaller serving dishes.

After three days they have not set. Can I save them?

  • I guess you are right after the "refrigerate 8h" step? – Stephie Mar 30 '16 at 15:11
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    Make ice cream! – Jolenealaska Mar 30 '16 at 15:27
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I see several problems here. First, the recipe only has 3 yolks per cup of liquid, that's the bare minimum for thickening and does not produce a really thick custard like the one expected in creme brulee. Second, it is a stirred custard, not a baked one, which is a method for producing pourable or at least creamy custards, not "spadeable" ones where you can take out a piece with your spoon without the sides slowly flowing to partially fill the hole. Third, it does not give you a temperature, but suggests you to use time and a visual clue ("coats metal spoon") and that clue is also consistent with a liquid custard like creme anglaise, not a thick one like creme brulee.

The best thing to do is to pick a different recipe for next time - one which uses more yolks and directs you to oven bake the custard in a water bath. Aim for 83-85 Celsius internal temperature (under 80 it will stay too soft, over 90 it will go grainy, so if you don't have a thermometer, it is very difficult to get it right). It will take several hours, that's normal.

For this batch, I wouldn't bother reprocessing it in any way. It is edible as it is, use it in whatever calls for a custard sauce. It's easiest and ensures that you won't run into additional trouble.

If you really insist on trying to make creme brulee out of this one batch, add more yolks and bake in the oven in a water bath until proper internal temperature.

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    Hm. A very cursory search gave me 4-6 yolks per 500 ml (2 cups) of cream or cream/milk mixture. The fail is probably more due to method (baked vs. stirred) and internal temperature. – Stephie Mar 30 '16 at 15:43
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Yes, you can fix Creme Brulee that did not set! You just have to be willing to put out the effort. Despite what the entire internet seems to say, it can be done & I have done it with resounding success!

  • Scrape off the skin that has form on top of the un-set custard in the oven.

  • Scrape custards out of ramekins into a fine metal strainer & work the custard through with a rubber spatula to ensure you have a smooth custard base, once again.

  • Slowly heat your custard, stirring constantly, over a double boiler, until the custard base is hot (but not cooked).

  • Redistribute into cleaned ramekins. Fill pans with a HOT water bath to reach the height of the custard.

  • Rebake in a 300-degree oven until the custard is set.

Voila!

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My original recipe did not call for enough egg yolks (5 yolks for 500 ml liquid), and I used half and half instead of cream.
On top of that, I didn't cook it long enough (only 35 minutes at 150 degrees), so -- of course I got soup after 24 hours in the fridge.
But I had seasoned the half and half with rosemary, and made rosemary sugar, so I wasn't about to give up!

Given that I needed more egg yolks, I poured the liquid from the ramekins in the fridge (skimming off the skin on top) into a saucepan and carefully reheated the liquid (being careful not to bring it to boiling, as it now has eggs in it).
I then made another egg/sugar mixture with four more egg yolks a little of the rosemary sugar, and re-added the hot liquid to this mixture and re-cooked it fresh ramekins in a hot water bath for another 60 minutes at 150 degrees until it seemed set but not overcooked.

The new mixture only filled 4 ramekins, not 5, but they seemed to be more set, though still pretty jiggly the next day. So I went ahead and sugared the tops with the rosemary sugar, broiled for 4 minutes to get the tops carmelized, and let cool.

When I broke the sugar tops, the insides were still liquid. Delicious, but liquid. Undaunted, I put them in the oven at 200 degrees so as to cook the custard. 20 minutes later, I had delicious scrambled eggs with mushy sugar coating on top.

So, even though you (like me) desperately want to believe that your crème brulee can be fixed... NO. Start over.

I think in retrospect, reading all of the recipes out there, next time I would use caster sugar, and would beat it with the egg yolks rather than whisking. I might also go for a slightly higher temperature in the oven. But save yourself some heartache. Don’t try to save a failed crème brulee.

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