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Creme Brulee HELP!!!

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Okay, I make the Lemon Creme Brulee Tart often from Epicurious, to great reviews. HOWEVER, being the hound that I am, I am not happy with the top. I cannot seem to get the thin crip layer of sugar like when I've had it out even though I have used a torch for this. I've followed the recipe which suggests putting it under the broiler and I find that it browns considerably but isn't crisp. I've used a propane torch which I bought specifically for this purpose and it usually ignites the sugar and then blows out. I was thinking it over today and wondering if I used enough sugar? Also, I've seen recipes calling for brown sugar, does that make a difference? I also notice that not all of the sugar browns which is a major irritant to me, I hate the thought of tasting granulated sugar...yuck! As I don't eat this one (make them to sell or donate) I cannot help but cringe when I see the sugar granules on top amidst the browned surface. No one complains in fact I continue to get tons of praise for this but I know it isn't what I want it to be...HELP HOUNDS!!!!!

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  1. Sounds like you're doing everything correctly.

    If your cremes are in little ramekins, spoon a whole tablespoon over the top, then swirl them around until the top is covered, the dump the excess back in the sugar bowl.

    Your torch is probably the right tool for the job. Hold the end about 2 inches away and work in concentric circles. Caremelize that sugar! For it to be brittle it needs to burn (hence Brulee!) think coffee brown. It should stay hard and brittle for hours, but will soften into a caramel-esque goo over time.

    Sounds good to me!

    As for the other sugars, brown sugar is hygroscopic (likes water) so though it will be splendid at first, it will begin to get soggy pretty quickly.
    Sugar in the raw is a great alternative, but becasue the crystals are pretty large, you may not like the rocky-crystals peeking out of the brittle caramel (I do!)

    Happy burning!

    1. I would venture that you are not putting enough sugar. I used sugar in the raw and it worked well. Also maybe you are putting your torch a bit too close. Hope this helps.

      1. It may be your sugar. If it is not 100% cane sugar it will never caramelize properly. If your sugar package is not marked 100% cane sugar you have beet sugar and it just burns. Is the torch you are using one of those little things that has been on the market in the past few years? Those don't do as good a job as a regular full sized torch either. And, be generous with the sugar.

        1. I'm sorry to piggy back on the post, but my hardware store blowtorch died recently and I don't know what to do to refill it. Or do I just buy a new canister? I feel really dumb asking this question.

          (Yes, I've made lots of creme brulees in the past couple of years! I've also decoratively torched a few meringues too.)

          5 Replies
          1. re: raj1

            Go buy a new tank at the hardware store. You take the nozzle off the old tank and put it on the new one.

            1. re: raj1

              I'm assuming you've got a propane torch that you purchased already assembled? If so, yes - just unscrew the brass "torch" part and replace the propane cylinder. Replacement cylinders are readily available at every hardware store and many other places - just be sure you get one that contains propane or LP gas - there are a couple other types of gas around, notably MAPP.

              1. re: raj1

                Speking of torch problems, my BERNZOMATIC consistently goes out when I tip it down to brulee my brulee. What am I doing wrong?

                1. re: Scagnetti

                  My understanding (not 100% sure of this) is that the newer torches are designed for safety purposes to go out when tipped over. I don't know if that's something being mandated by the government or if it's being done voluntarily by manufacturers. If the latter, I suppose it might be possible to find a torch without that feature, or maybe pick up an older one at a yard sale.

                  1. re: Scagnetti

                    Maybe your fuel is running low. I had the same problem a while back and it was immediately corrected when I bought a new fuel bottle. I use the same brand of torch as you do.

                2. Make sure your torch is on full blast and the flame comes out concentrated not like starter flames. Make sure you rotate the dish around when using the torch and no water condensation is collected at the top. Brown sugar is basically white sugar with caramel added to it, so it shouldn't make any difference besides a more caramel taste.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: theSauce

                    Brown sugar burns too easily and doesn't melt as well as white sugar.

                    1. re: theSauce

                      Sorry to nit pick-
                      Brown sugar is less refined white sugar that contains molasses- not added caramel.

                      The molasses content makes the sugar hygroscopic and therefore absorbs more water

                      1. re: jdherbert

                        Brown sugar used to be less refined. Now it's just white sugar with molasses (not caramel) added back in.

                        1. re: FlyFish

                          Sorry my bad, yes both posters are correct it is molasses and not caramel. I was thinking of another type of sugar.

                    2. Thanks for the input. One more question, one poster said to make sure that there was enough sugar; for a whole tart the recipe called for 2 tlbs., is that enough? I am also concerned that perhaps the sugar I used is not Cane sugar, some packages have been labeled as such and some have not (same brand!). I confess, I typically buy what is on sale and never realized that there was a difference.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: 4chowpups

                        A very big difference. After some disasters with the "cheap" sugar I relegated it to use for hummingbird food and make sure my sugar is 100% cane. The beet sugar can change the texture of baked goods, I made a rustic apple tart with caramel sauce to take to a dinner party. The texture of the tart was not what I had made in the past and the caramel sauce which had always been perfect in the past glued the forks to the plates. It was awful. No beet sugar for me ever again.

                        1. re: 4chowpups
                          babette feasts

                          How big is the tart? 9"? 2Tb might not be enough.

                          Blot any condensation from the top, then sprinkle sugar evenly. I think of it as a layer about three grains of sugar thick. A layer to stick to the custard and two to caramelize. You need more than just the amount that sticks (if you sprinkle on, swirl, and pour off, in my experience you still need to sprinkle on a bit more to get a nice crust.) The sugar should be white and dry resting on top of the custard.

                          I'd recommend practicing with varying amounts of sugar on wide slices of banana until you get a feel for how much is enough. Bananas are cheap and about as moist as creme brulee. Not enough sugar, and you just burn the food underneath. Too much, and it puddles up and doesn't behave or just turns black before you get it all melted.

                          As far as the original source of sugar, well maybe in professional kitchens all we get is pure cane, can't say I've read the fine print on my sugar bags lately, but Candy is the only person I've ever heard of having trouble with beet sugar vs. cane sugar. Anything is possible, but see what works for you.

                          1. re: babette feasts

                            Actually I am not the only person and there was discussion and a link to the SF Chronicle article about that very thing about 2-3 weeks ago onthe General Topics board. They ran kitchen tests baking and making side by side recipes and recording the results. That article validated what I had discovered on my own.

                            1. re: Candy

                              I was in the habit of buying whichever sugar was on sale until a friend and I started having the cane vs beet sugar discussion. Since then the I have been seeing alot about the difference and started using C&H brand only (I'm in California) which is pure cane sugar. I have noticed more consistency in my baking results. I recently noticed that C&H has started marking their packaging to boldly state that their sugar is cane sugar only.
                              Regarding creme brulee, I have never had a problem with the sugar on top in all the years I've made it(and we make alot of creme brulee in my house), even before my switch to cane-only sugar.

                              1. re: Candy
                                babette feasts

                                Sorry, I missed that.

                                I just thought I'd remembered you mentioning it before, and had though it was odd at the time. In six and a half years as a pastry chef, I've caramelized a considerable amount of sugar and don't remember ever getting a 'bad bag' as it were. But maybe it's all C&H. I'll have to look for the article when I get a chance.

                                1. re: babette feasts

                                  If you will e-mail me I will send you the article. I don't have the link but do have the article.

                          2. I'm considering making the Lemon Creme Brulee Tart for a dinner party. Is it worth the effort and what tips would you offer?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Sacgnetti

                              I think it is very easy to make although I've had a bit of difficulty with the pastry, watch how much water you put in because if it is too wet it gets sticky. I try to work quickly with it and this past time I had to piece together the whole thing but luckily it's in a tart pan and not a pie crust so it didn't matter and I've come to realize that what I think is "tough" crust, mine is nothing like that ever. Of course I am highly paranoid as I was taught not to handle the dough much so I never have!!! Everyone loves this tart and I find it to be very easy, post if you try it!!!

                            2. I haven't read every comment below, so I apologize if I am repeating things. My mother brulees custard fruit tarts, and after several tarts with this problem, she asked a professional chef. She followed his instructions, and had perfect results.Here'swhat you must do:

                              Take ordinary white sugar and melt it, stirring, in a non-stick pan. Once it is brown and caramelized, pour it onto a foil-wrapped baking tray. When it's hard, break it into pieces and blitz to a fine powder in a blender. Sprinkle on top of tart/brulee, and either blitz with a torch, or even use your oven's broiler (keep an eye - it only takes several seconds).

                              Since the sugar's already been broken down by the initial melting, it melts much more quickly and evenly than using normal white sugar.

                              It sounds like a lot of work, but it's not really. And the bruleeing is much, much quicker.