Archive for July, 2012

The perfect creme brulee

For a very long time now I’ve been on a mission to make the perfect creme brulee. Keren and I shared a serving of this iconic treat at a Salon de Thea on one of our edible adventures. It was (as I told Tony later) like eating pleasure itself. I made an inward resolution to master the art of Creme Brulee. With such a short and humble list of ingredients (eggs, cream, sugar, vanilla), how hard could it be?

Research uncovered a minefield of issues; cream, double cream, milk, anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes in the oven, some calling for a water bath and others not. Still more omit the baking step completely, thickening the custard on the stove. Nigella says it best; “If it starts to split, plunge the saucepan in a sink of cold water and whisk like crazy”. Sans blowtorch, a minute or two under a hot grill is the proffered suggestion for burning the sugar, though some have you make a separate caramel and pour it on.

My creme brulee in Paris had a texture somewhere between yoghurt and Nutella; a thick, delectable smoothness. In pursuit of this I’ve made recipes by Julia Childs, Delia Smith, various food bloggers and Clotilde herself. All have been delicious but never produced the texture I coveted.

But this time I succeeded. I made the perfect creme brulee. I abandoned the recipes and followed my heart. I took the bold step of withholding the cream from the custard and adding it (whipped) at the end. Tony’s new Hot Devil blowtorch added the final touch. What resulted was a marriage of texture and taste that brought on a lengthy period of self-congratulation. Fortunately, Angie and Steve did not seem to mind.

Perfect Creme Brulee

5 egg yolks
80g sugar
200ml milk
1 vanilla pod, split and scraped
400ml cream (I used pure cream by Barambah Organics, the most incredible cream ever tasted)
Demerara sugar

Warm the milk in a saucepan with the vanilla seeds and pod. Remove from the heat before it boils and allow to cool a little. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and pale, or as Julia says “until it forms the ribbon”. Remove the pod and slowly whisk in the warm milk. Pour the custard into a saucepan and place over a low heat, stirring constantly. Once thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, set aside to cool completely and then chill in the fridge. Beat the cream until it’s soft enough to dollop, but not stiff. When the custard is chilled, fold in the cream. The trick is to get a perfect ratio of custard to cream, largely a matter of personal taste though I have given you roughly 50/50. Spoon the mixture into your ramekins and chill until ready to serve. The blow torching should be done well in advance so the caramel has time to harden. However, it becomes a little crowd pleaser to do it with friends. We made Angie and Steve do theirs when they arrived, more fun that way.

Eggs at last

Our girls have settled comfortably into their new home and have finally been named; Kate, Sam, Bec and Sarah after the four lovely Aunties my children have. I think this idea may have come from Sarah, Plain and Tall. We were away when Aunty Sarah decided to give the first egg-y gift, only Tony was here to enjoy it. Since then the score stands at Frizzles: eight, Layers: zero. Some of the eggs made it into this cake:

The bantam eggs are tiny, but so perfect. Almost all yolk. After boiling a couple for lunches today, I rolled through the nap time marathon of wiping hands and faces, nappy changes, toilet trips, stories, singing and breastfeeding before finding myself with leisure to enjoy them. A bit of salt and pepper, some chopped parsley and olive oil and I was enjoying the best (certainly the most satisfying) egg sandwich of my entire life.

Raising seeds

This blog recently put me in touch with a friend I’ve seen only briefly since primary school. She was kind enough to send me my very first piece of blogging fan mail! A lovely parcel which included two packets of Select Organic seeds. Thanks Lorna!

This generous and unexpected gesture has spurred me into action on the seed raising front. Since good quality seedlings are hard to find and rather uneconomical, seed raising is really the basis of my whole food growing strategy. Trouble is, it’s a delicate art with wide room for error. After reading everything I can get my hands on, it all comes down to a teeny, tiny speck of embryonic material which needs exactly the right mix of moisture, air, warmth and light to put out roots, shoots and hopefully, leaves.

I started with toilet rolls and an upturned veggie crisper-turned-greenhouse, which sadly did not stop a marauding brush turkey from upsetting the lot. Unfortunately, the damp cardboard quickly attracted mould and only about half of my efforts are still powering on. My second round of sowing was done in yoghurt containers and milk cartons, all carefully sterilised. I’m dreaming of an Alys Fowler-style greenhouse using recycled lead light windows. For now I’m using windows from an old Queenslander (found on Gumtree) as a series of lean-to’s. They make lovely dappled light out of the bright Brisbane sun.

As it happens, I’ve now got a fabulous collection of seeds. My Dad generously donated a large share of his own, my Tasmanian sister contributed some packets from Southern Harvest, my friend Kate chose some sub-tropical favourites including Rosella bush and I’ve picked up several packets of Green Patch Organic Seeds which are sold around Brisbane. I can’t rave enough about local company Green Harvest, who delivered the day after I ordered and sent copious amounts of helpful info. But my favourite packets are the ones with hand written labels, from a local permaculture nursery, Edible Landscapes. These are the ones carefully and judiciously saved by home gardeners. Seed saving plays such an important role in preserving our ability (and right) to produce our own food. I’ll be giving it a go myself, soon.


About Me

A girl with a camera, a toddler and a sewing machine. Making sense of Germany... and life in general.

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