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I intend to try and make Crème brûlée.

However, instead of baking it in a bain-marie I intend to cook it in my Kenwood Cooking Chef, which uses induction heating to cook the ingredients right in the mixing bowl. I can set the temperature with 2 degree precision and do not intend to actually melt sugar on top of the creme or pour it into rameskins. That is why I would benefit from knowing the exact temperature that the creme actually "bakes" in, or in other words what temperature I should cook it at in order for it to be able to set after putting it in the refrigerator (if it would be needed?) and be edible.

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    Is this a case of confusing precision with accuracy? – dougal 5.0.0 Mar 30 '17 at 11:05
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    @dougal3.0.0, I don't think so? Precision is how small of an adjustment you can make, accuracy is how close your reading is to the actual value. Is this about aesthetics? – User9123 Mar 30 '17 at 11:17
  • Hi, at last someone who understands the difference! As I live on a boat (and though I have a great new cooker) boat cookers are notorious for having only two settings - HOT OR COLD! So I apologize I can't help you. Good luck with your question though and there are many on here who should be able to help. Oh, almost forgot. Welcome! – dougal 5.0.0 Mar 30 '17 at 11:24
  • @dougal3.0.0, thanks! It's a side effect of being a physicist. :) Good luck with your culinary endeavours, too! – User9123 Mar 30 '17 at 11:37
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    Have you really checked if your machine really can set the temperature precisely? Standard induction ovens have indicators in degrees which are completely useless, since they don't correspond to the real temperature of the food. Maybe your device behaves differently, but it is something I would check with an independent thermometer before using it for temperature sensitive applications. – rumtscho May 2 '17 at 17:53
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I've never used a heated mixing bowl, but I do sous vide, which I believe works on the same principle as what you're trying (namely that you can't overcook it because the cooking temp is where you want the final internal temp of the food to be).

Anova has a pretty popular recipe for creme brulee which specifies 176ºF (80ºC) as the correct temp. They also have an older, less popular recipe that specifies 180ºF (82ºC). This recipe for traditional baked creme brulee says to bake until the internal temp is 170F-175F, but with residual heat I would expect it to continue cooking until somewhere between 176-180F once out of the oven and water bath.

If I were you I would set the mixing bowl temp to 176ºF (80ºC) and see how that sets up. If the final consistency isn't quite where you like it, you can try it a little higher next time.

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    Thank you, after I try it I will edit my question with my findings. – User9123 Mar 30 '17 at 13:13
  • @User9123 Please do! We love to know how things turn out :) – senschen Mar 30 '17 at 14:03
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    Well, something didn't go right. I set the temperature to 80 degrees Celsius and left it for quite a while to cook. It was being well stirred, while cooking, but it didn't thicken. I used a simple recipe of 6 egg yolks, 500ml cream and 200g sugar. Then I started increasing the temperature by 5-10 degrees and leaving it to cook and stir for 10-15 minutes before checking. But it wasn't until I set it to 100 degrees that it thickened. Something ain't right, because I found this link which begs me to make further testing after the holidays – User9123 Apr 10 '17 at 6:12
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    @User9123 Huh... that is weird. I can't help but wonder if the stirring had something to do with it. I'm not sure that that would be the case, but a typical creme brulee wouldn't be stirred while its setting. It may also have been that the heat lost through the top of the bowl prevented the contents from coming up to the desired temp until you turned the heat up. Unless you covered it, in which case that's probably not it. – senschen Apr 10 '17 at 11:15
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    @User9123 Right, but since your creme brulee isn't a starch pudding, I'm not sure that it needs stirring. Especially since traditional creme brulee (and most custards, to the best of my knowledge) is not stirred at all once the cooking starts. I would't expect burning to be an issue at 80C, either. That said, I'm not sure how much the stirring actually hurt vs it was just unnecessary. – senschen Apr 10 '17 at 13:32
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I was finally able to get back to this and make some edits.

My findings:

My first assumption was that egg yolks would behave like cornstarch and that was wrong.
Cornstarch, once it has reached its "coagulating"/"setting"/whatever temperature (assuming uniform temperature distribution and no evaporation) will set and further heating it or increasing the temperature will not make it "set" any harder.

Egg yolks are different in that regard. Egg yolks (and eggs in general) will begin to set/coagulate from a certain temperature and will set/coagulate/harden to a different extent at different temperatures.

Furthermore, in my observations, creme brulee behaves differently than cornstarch-based recipes (like chocolate pudding, for example).
In the case of cornstarch chocolate pudding, once it reaches the required temperature for the cornstarch to set (about 95 degrees Celsius) the cornstarch sets and the mixture becomes visibly much thicker (remember you always stir pudding), which is a clear giveaway sign it is ready or almost ready to be taken off the stove (or out of the mixing bowl in my case). Furthermore refrigeration does not drastically change the cornstarch pudding thickness.
But creme brulee will remain quite runny even after the yolks have started to set (at least while it's still being stirred as to not burn) or have reached maximum "setness" or "coagulation" for a given temperature. Mine actually looked like a cup of melted butter up until I put it in the refrigerator. Which brings me to my next point - refrigeration drastically alters creme brulee thickness.
(The above is not true (which is why I striked it through), creme brulee will visibly thicken and set even more than cornstarch pudding before refrigeration.)

What I tried:

I tried performing an experiment where I would slowly and gradually heat egg yolks to certain temperatures and observe what happens to them both when stirred and when not but I was unable using my equipment.

Firstly heating egg yolks without stirring them causes them to develop a "cream" - a sort of surface membrane that is a bit harder and traps heat inside, like milk does when you heat it up without stirring. That and them getting heated non-uniformly due to the parts that are in contact with the hotplate coagulating first ruined that approach.

The only observation I was able to make thus far was when I was also stirring them but that also failed due to my equipment being made with bigger portions in mind and the temperature control isn't that good for a couple of egg yolks.

The reason for the runniness and my general failure to conceive Creme Brulee was that I was always stirring it, never leaving it to set properly and, furthermore, my heated mixing bowl isn't made with that in mind and leaving it to set didn't go too well, either.
(You can make creme brulee just fine whilst stirring it, my problem stems from elsewhere.)

Findings are based on this recipe:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 500ml cream
  • 300ml sugar

Conclusion:

The problem in my case was that I was stirring the mixture non-stop, which prevented it from setting at desired temperatures, instead allowing it to set in a very unappealing way only at high temperatures. Unfortunately my equipment does not allow me to make creme brulee, like I had hoped, and thus cannot comment on the proper temperature. The ~85 degrees Celsius looks good, though.
So far I'm still on it but I'm guessing the problem is in my hotplate, not the stirring (for example when making creme brulee on the stove you need to stir it very, very fast).

  • Thanks for posting your findings. I love making Crème brûlée. I think pint jars for the sous vide recipe is a little crazy. Its so rich and I can only eat maybe a cup. – haakon.io May 2 '17 at 16:05
  • I don't know what went wrong with your cooking procedure, but 84 Celsius should produce a very nice creme brulee, not a runny one. I usually take mine out of the oven at 82 or 83. – rumtscho May 2 '17 at 17:55
  • @rumtscho, it could be a problem with the recipe, too - I just made it up myself after looking at 5 or so recipes on The Internet. Some time this week I intend to test with 90 degrees and will update my answer (I already know a 100 degrees make it thick like rice). – User9123 May 2 '17 at 18:08

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