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Oklahoma Table: Hurray for Made in OK Creme Brulee on Valentine's Day

Creme Brulee can be made with some basic local Oklahoma ingredients. You probably don't realize it, but you may have all the ingredients you need on hand.
BY SHERREL JONES Published: February 13, 2013

/articleid/3754680/1/pictures/1951966">Photo - Creme Brulee for Valentine's Day in Oklahoma City, Thursday February  07, 2013. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman
Creme Brulee for Valentine's Day in Oklahoma City, Thursday February 07, 2013. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman

Here are my tried-and-true rules for making the best Creme Brulee:

Start with the best quality fresh eggs and milk.

Strain the liquid custard mixture before baking for silky smooth custard.

Use a sturdy pan to hold ramekins for baking custards in the water bath.

Bake custard low and slow in warm “Bain-Marie” water bath. It should not boil.

To avoid burns and spills when removing baked custards from oven pull out rack first.

Let custards cool before removing from water bath and refrigerating.

Broil sugar topping only when you can give it your full attention.

Over the years, I've made Creme Brulee in a variety of flavors, adding puree of pumpkin or butternut squash to the custard mixture. Sometimes I do it with concentrated coffee added to the heated cream. When I get fresh vanilla beans, I slit a half of one lengthwise and steep it in part of the half-and-half. To keep the little specks of pure vanilla, this part of the liquid is added after straining the rest of the heated half-and-half mixed with the egg and sugar mixture. This way the residue from the pod remains in the custard.

I've also made a chocolate version, melting 4 to 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler then incorporating it into the hot half-and-half.

One more thing in case you forget to give full attention to broiling the sugar: Let the burnt sugar cool, then lift it off and add new sugar mixture to the top of the custard. Then watch it carefully this time.

This year we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of our first date a few days before Valentine's. It has over the decades become a significant milestone for us.

This year I'm including my favorite Oklahoma honey in the custard mixture, dissolving it into the heated half-and-half before mixing it with the eggs. I may just omit the vanilla and let that honey bring its pure Oklahoma flavor to celebrate those 40 years with my “Honey.”

It is amazing how so few ingredients make such an elegant ending to a special meal. All you need is a little time. Make the custard the day before, chill overnight, then broil (brulee) the sugar topping before serving time. This recipe will fill 10 to 12 small 1/3- to ½-cup ramekins or custard dishes. A few fresh or frozen raspberries or blackberries can be hidden inside the custard before adding the sugar topping and broiling. They make a yummy surprise.

Made in Oklahoma Valentine's Day Creme Brulee

6 local egg yolks plus one egg (save whites for omelets or meringues.)

¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

3 cups Hiland or Braums half-and-half

Sugar topping:

Approximately 1/2 to 2/3 to cup light brown sugar or a combination of brown sugar, Turbinado sugar and sugar.

Heat half-and-half over medium heat but DO NOT BOIL. Stir to keep from scorching. It should be steamy hot. Use a whisk and beat yolks and egg with sugar in a large bowl. Add vanilla or other flavorings blending into the yolk mixture. Gradually temper the yolk-mixture by incorporating small amounts of hot mixture a little at a time. Use a small measuring cup to transfer from hot half-and-half. Repeat several times, whisking while adding hot liquid. Slowly pour remainder of heated liquid into bowl, whisking until well blended.

Use a fine mesh strainer to strain the mixture into a large measuring cup or pitcher with a spout. Pour strained mixture into baking dishes and position them in a larger sturdy pan. A large cake or roasting pan works well. Add hot tap water to fill 2/3 to ¾ of the way up the sides of the ramekins for “Bain-Marie” (lukewarm water-bath).

Place in 350-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes depending on size and depth of baking dishes or ramekins. Cool to room temperature and then place ramekins in refrigerator. Chill 4 to 6 hours or overnight.

Prepare sugar topping. Before broiling, top custards with a tablespoon or more of sugar mixture. Arrange custards on heavy baking sheet. Adjust oven rack. Tops of custards should be about 5 to 8 inches from broiler.

Pay strict attention while broiling until sugar bubbles and browns. Keep brulees in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Garnish with fresh berries.

Variations: Incorporate 3 tablespoons instant coffee granules dissolved in ¼ cup boiling water or zest of an orange or lemon into half and half while heating.


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