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creme brulee - how far in advance can i torch the top?

I am going to be making creme brulee for a little dinner party held at a friend's home. I've never actually made it before, and I'm afraid that it'll take too long to torch the tops of them with my little williams-sonoma-type torch and I'd really just like to bring them ready to eat. I want to enjoy the party, after all! How far in advance can I make the crackly top without them losing their snap? Every recipe I've seen says to do it right before serving...

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  1. I have always done it just before, not sure how long it lasts. It doesn't take too long with my regular propane torch, I imagine it would be the same with yours.

    Maybe try out the technique beforehand. Perhaps sprinkle sugar over yogurt or something to practice. It isn't hard to do at all, but then you could see how long it will take and decide if you just want to do it there and avoid the risk.

    Maybe there is some better base to practice on than yogurt? Sour cream? That's thicker.

    3 Replies
    1. re: guate

      Trying it out in advance was a good idea. Unfortunately, all I had that is vaguely custard-like was some fat-free sugar-free chocolate pudding. It was kind of hard to distinguish the browned sugar from the brown pudding. But it didn't take that long.

      So when you torch the sugar, does it actually take a bit to set into the crunchy end state? I think the pudding melted a little underneath, so I had to put it into the fridge for a couple of minute for the sugar to set.

      1. re: keslacye

        Torch and then re-refridgerate 15-20 mins to let the crunch set in

        1. re: malabargold

          Part of the joy of creme brulee for me is the contrast between the hot/warm crunch of the topping against the custard.

          I am always disappointed when it comes 'from the fridge' in restaurants.

    2. One reason to do it there is that everyone will enjoy seeing you play with fire. I've torched things at party and they're literally mesmerized.

      1. I agree that doing it there is a big hit.

        I haven't ever had to let it set that I recall but if that works then great!

        1. You could do it under a broiler just before serving. I saw a catering show where they made creme brulee but made caramelized sugar (like making toffee) in advance, poured it onto a cookie sheet and then broke into pieces when cooled. They used these pieces to put on top of the creme brulee. Not quite the same but would work.

          1. its quick enough to do there, and it has a little ooh wow factor too which is always good at a party