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"Deconstructed" Creme brulee

What do you guys think of this image and idea of seperating a classic dish like that?

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  1. I like it. Interesting concept, and way to go jumping about the popular idea of "deconstruction". My only issues would be...
    Thinking about what creme brulee is and why it's a classic: The contrast between the warm burnt sugar taste and crunch to the cool smooth custard. Has it been lost, or is it still there with the spun sugar?
    Does it even make sense deconstructing something that really has only 2 components? Do you go further and remove the vanilla from the custard and reinvent it as a vanilla foam? HAHA...look at what I just came up with!
    I'm just pondering out loud - as I initially said, I do like the concept.

    1. I just looked on your blog and now I have to ask, "What kind of hack cook are you anyways, leaving out the vanilla???"
      And now I think for this dish to really work as a "deconstructed" item, you'd need to take it apart even more. Do something creative with the egg yolks with or without the sugar, do something simple with the heavy cream, and add an element of "brulee" somewhere in there. Deconstructing a dish into 2 parts doesn't do it for me.

      1. I want to know how it tastes -- I think what you made looks good, especially if as chef dude suggested, the spun sugar helps it retain the crunchy next to creamy nature of creme brulee. I think you might call your creation a take on creme brulee, but if I'm understanding your picture right, I disagree that it's "deconstructed" because you've actually still layered the creme and the brulee, have you not?

        1. I like creme brulee because of the way it tastes together. Deconstructing it makes it too much work to eat and you don't get the right proportions in each bite. While spun sugar is pretty, I don't want to deal with it when eating. A dish like that is often more about appearance than taste.

          1. Egg-zactly how would you go about deconstructing a creme brulee? A bowl of custard, a pile of sugar and a match? Or would an egg, a pitcher of cream, a shot glass with a bit of vanilla, some sugar, and some more sugar and a match be a better deonstruction?

            1 Reply
            1. re: Caroline1

              Yea wow awesome feedback. I just wanted to take a classic dish and approach it from a different angle. In tasting this dish, the creme is accentuated more than a traditional creme brulee. It was like little explosions of sugar laced in with the creme. I did forget the vanilla beans and I am glad you caught me on that.

            2. Okay, following ChefDude's example, I looked over your weblog... And I see you're new, so welcome. Nice to have a young chef around we can bring up right! '-)

              I do strongly subscribe to the school that says you don't deconstruct a good thing, so don't mess with creme brulee! But... As long as you already have... If I were going to deconstruct the dish, I would bake the custard in an egg shaped mold, or even just a round bottom bowl so it forms something similar to an egg when turned out onto a plate. And then I would form a larger egg shaped cage with the spun sugar. You can do that on a balloon, but be sure to spin from a high enough height the heat doesn't pop it. Set the larger half-egg shaped spun sugar cage over the smaller half-egg shaped custard on an elegant plate, maybe perch a sugar violet or two on the spun sugar.

              With this version of the "deconstruction," the outer sugar egg must be broken and shattered, thereby scattering the "burnt sugar" over the custard, and voila! Right back where you started from... Creme brulee...!

              1. Caroline that sounds more appropriate. I think I will have to redo the post now after reading that.

                13 Replies
                1. re: mrjohnnyzone

                  Bless your heart. I was afraid I may have hurt your feelings. The spun sugar cages are a lot of fun, but you don't see them that much any more.

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    No don't worry but I just finished doing a risotto on my blog and am very curious of what you think about it.

                    1. re: mrjohnnyzone

                      When I cook, I'm all about simplicity, i.e. lack of complications. So, I ask, why did you find it necessary to saute your mushrooms in a separate pan, instead of doing it together with the onions? You end up leaving flavors in the additional pan. Overall, the dish seems ok - I like your use of interchanging the cheese. I personally don't believe in "recipes" per se, I feel that they are more guidelines than anything else, and with a base of personal knowledge and skill, a cook can go anywhere, as long as they understand how foods and flavors work, and what makes a particular dish "that dish". I can't quite put my finger on it, and I don't know how old you are or how long you've been working in the industry, but I get a strong whiff of "amateur" from you. Don't take that as an insult. I don't know you, haven't had your food, and don't intend it to be an insult. You haven't been to culinary school yet, have you?

                      1. re: ChefDude

                        Well, for openers, there's a raging discussion going on on these boards about mislabeling of foods. Actually, the discussion started off about foods being "pandered" under classic names and what comes out on the plate being nothing even close. Don't know if this is your original recipe, but I read it several times looking for the "essence" of rosemary. The recipe calls for a few sprigs of rosemary, but ain't no way that's an essence!

                        Other than that.... The thing I find appealing about it is that I'm not a huge fan of that Regiano stuff... I almost always use pecorino Romano instead. So I like little animals that go baaaaah. They give good cheese!

                        I'm a bit amused that you spend $3.50 a pound for rice, but you don't have any white wine in the house to deglaze the pan? Pick up a nice bottle of white vermouth! My favorite cooking wine. Julia Childe rather liked it too. I use Noilly Prat, but whatever works for you.

                        And speaking of rice, I read somewhere recently (maybe on the label of my bag of sushi rice?) that sushi rice makes great risotto. I haven't tried it yet, but even the top brands of sushi rice are a lot easier to find.

                        You do very nice photography. Well, if you don't do it yourself, someone does nice photography. Your cooking directions are clear, and when combined with the photographs, not much chance even a beginner can go wrong. Good work!

                        You do have a typo though... You start off with "Dante" cheese, but in the ingredients list, you have "Durante cheese." Jimmy Durante was a comedian of the long-ago radio days famous for his big nose. If we were talking about wine instead of cheese, I could make a nice pun here.

                        Since you don't make any suggestions about what to serve this risotto with, is it fair to assume you intend it as a first course?

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          Yes, Caroline. It looks like you and I are following each other on other posts, too!
                          The concept of "essence of rosemary" is applied perfectly here. I think. I'm not sure when johnny's removing the sprigs, but the idea is that there isn't chopped rosemary in the dish, which would just be overpowering, but rather just a hint, or essence. And the fact that the mushrooms had rosemary too just reinforces that.

                          1. re: ChefDude

                            Poor Johnny Zone! We're rather decontructing him, aren't we! Jimmy, you're a brave and valiant soul. Hang in there, and bravo for having the guts to put up your blog!

                            It's entirely possible that I am being too literal about the "essence" of rosemary. Sauteeing a couple of sprigs along with the rice in butter may pick up a bit of rosemary flavor, but for me, if I was going after an "essense" of rosemary, I would bruise it and add it to the pan when I deglazed with wine. Simmer the bruised rosemary a bit. But alas, poor Johnny didn't have any wine!

                            I do think that every cook/chef has to work with a different set of taste buds, so what one person things is rockets in the sky may only be a stick of punk to someone else. That said, my taste buds tell me there is a difference in the way that oils and fats,such as butter, pick up and amplify a flavor, and the way that alcohol picks up and amplifies a flavor. If food was an orchestra, I'd have to say that for me flavor bearing fats and oils are the cello section while alcohol carried flavors are the violins. I just don't connect fats with "essence." Fats rumble!

                            1. re: Caroline1

                              You need some work with your analogies, Caroline! Cello vs violin? which is better/more necessary? Fats rumble? I wish I knew what you were trying to say!
                              And by the way, it's a scientific/culinary FACT that fats carry flavor. That's been the crux of the problem for the whole low-fat/ non-fat industry. Alcohol does amplify some flavors, especially regarding tomatoes. And johnny knows he was missing the wine - he said as much. But just because you're missing an ingredient, does that mean you shouldn't make dinner??? In a restaurant, the answer's different.

                              1. re: ChefDude

                                I am 20 years old so I can't legally buy wine yet...

                                  1. re: mrjohnnyzone

                                    Hey, you are fantastic! Twenty years old and you cook that well? When I was twenty years old, I didn't know a pinto bean from a jelly bean! If I lived close to you, I'd buy you a bottle of vermouth just for getting to read your blog.

                                    1. re: mrjohnnyzone

                                      If being a chef is what you want to do (be), good luck! And do whatever you gotta do to get to culinary school!

                                    2. re: ChefDude

                                      LOL! yes. I know about how fats carry flavor. It's the semantics of "essence" that bothered me. "Essence" is a distillation of something, such as an aroma carried in a perfume. Essence is a volatile substance. Unless you leave fat on the fire too long, fat is not. Fat is never used as a base for an essence. Alcohol is. Is this clear enough? '-)

                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                        talk about semantics! Speaking from a professional culinary perspective, when we say essence, we are referring to, as you put it, "the aroma carried". We aren't concerned with how we got to the aroma. It refers to a subtle, underlying flavor - not an overpowering one.

                      2. Agree with Chef Dude. Deconstruction doesn't make much sense for one of the most simple dishes (desert & non-desert alike) in cooking. Deconstructing more complex dishes is much more interesting IMHO. Plus the creme brulee crunch/custard contrast is what its all about.

                        Creme brulee is a desert that could use more experimentation than deconstruction.

                        The best I've had to-date was at Nava, a Southwestern restaurant in Atlanta. It is a raspberry creme brulee with phyllo layers that is to die for.

                        1. Wow, you're 20 yrs old? Impressive work you're up to! You are indeed brave (and wise, I think) to come here for feedback cuz buddy, you'll get feedback! There are many very knowledgeable and generous folks here who are willing to help, ideas and information flow. I learn so much here.
                          Bravo to you, Mr Johnny Zone!

                          1. Jfood votes negatory on this one for presentation but admires your creativity, especially at your age. And many thanks for the photos, and the post.

                            Here's jfood's take on these two dishes (mushroom risotto the other)

                            deconstructing foods should be done only to improve the idea, not to show it can be done. In this case (a) the creme itself looks very unappetizing on the plate (b) the "sugar threads" are cool in look but to make them at home will cause more burnt hands than jfood cares to think about and they will shatter all over the place at the table (c) when did caramel sauce come into brulee or did that replace the vanilla that seems to have disappeared and (d) are those blood orange segments? So this is separated vanilla-less creme brulee caramel with blood orange segments. Insert jfood scratching his forehead here with a very confused look. Jfood might order once just to taste and try, but probably not a repeater.

                            Jfood had the same feeling after reading ATK's fake Coq au Vin. The beauty of that dish is the tranference of flavor from the wine to the chicken while it braises. So cookingthe wine in one pot while the chicken is elswhere is just silly.

                            Now for the risotto. Jfood really likes the idea of grabbing some flavor from the rosemary and he agrees with Caroline1 that a quick smash would have helped and then he would be careful not overwhelming the dish by leaving in too long. Jfood has been using vegetable stock for his wild mushroom risotto for years and agrees thats a good idea. Jfood is also concerned that the rosemary in the mushroom saute would take away from the wonderful mushroom flavor. Let the tongue bring the rosemary from the rice into the picture (although sage feels better in the belly for the shrooms). He is not a big fan of finishing with heavy cream, just a personal preference.

                            BTW - the reason you could not add the wine is precious, but at least fake it for the pictures.

                            Keep up the good work.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: jfood

                              I really appreciate the comments and criticism because normally I would just cook it up and people would say its great but its hard to find honest people who can really give their true point of views and not care about offending somebody. I really am thankful to you guys.

                            2. Here is my second take with a different approach more of a "deconstruction" I hope

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: mrjohnnyzone

                                LOL! Love your sense of humor! And sometimes food needs to be fun and creative. But... (You knew there'd be a "but" in here someplace, didn't you!) The problem (for me) is that an egg shell means way too small a portion. Very fun, very amusing, but sort of an amuse bouche of desserts. '-)

                                I try not to offer critiques without a suggestion to improve... You could use a larger egg. Not quite an ostrich egg, but maybe a duck or goose or turkey egg? Or you could serve an accompaniment such as any of the thin special cookies. A tuile or a "pirouette." I was sort of hoping you might try the spun sugar cage, then I realized I had failed to mention that you have to spray the balloon with Pam before you spin the sugar if you ever hope to seperate sugar from rubber (or whatever balloons are mode of these days).

                                Did you know there is a really terrific device called an "egg topper" that will take the end off an egg leaving a very smooth edge behind? A smooth edge is much stronger and resistant to further cracking from a spoon while eating. Nothing worse than eggshell between molars! It's the culinary equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard. They run five or six bucks to a hundred, which is a ridiculously stupid price. Well, unless you want it to match your silver pattern so you can set it on the breakfast table.

                                Once again, very creative. The only problem with getting critiques from people here is that... WE CAN'T TASTE IT...!!! :-(

                                1. re: mrjohnnyzone

                                  You're doing great, btw. When I made my last comment, I hadn't read your blog until others pointed it out. I can't believe you're only 20! That deconstructed one would be fun in a decorated Easter egg. Tagging along your idea--what about using spun sugar as your egg (might be able to drizzie it over the outside of half an egg) and making it a bite sized creme brulee?

                                  1. re: mrjohnnyzone

                                    Even though you used my idea of a vanilla foam....from the looks of it - I hate it. But keep at it, and keep in mind that a concept such as deconstruction generally either works perfectly, or fails miserably. It's either going to "wow", or make people go "why'd you have to mess with a perfectly good dish?". Keep studying, reading, reading, reading, educating yourself through others (professionals and non-pros), and work your ass off!

                                    1. re: ChefDude

                                      What you've done is NOT deconstructed. It's a plain flan served with (a nest of) spun sugar and a vanilla foam. Do you GET it now? Reread my first 2 replies -- way up. So what's my take on this concept, which I do like - as I said earlier?
                                      Well, there are said to be 100 ways to prepare an egg. So if you really mean deconstruction, then do it and figure out a way to use the egg yolk and white separately. Buttermilk or Kefir-poached egg yolk? Dry crispy meringue? Whipped cream? Ice-milk? Vanilla foam (also uses some egg white)? Shot glass of caramel sauce, or a plate made of a thin sheet of caramel (yay Silpat!)?
                                      Do all that, or variations of, and serve them distinctly and individually.

                                      In an effort to include a vegetarian entree on a menu I recently implemented at a restaurant, I developed an item I called a Deconstructed Vegetarian Napoleon. On a very large round plate I had panko-crusted portabellas, grilled eggplant, roasted red and yellow peppers, and Peruvian purple mashed potatoes. Each item was plated in its own area, and I used a basil oil and sea salt to finish the dish.
                                      When cooking in general, and when deconstructing, you want to include many different cooking methods, textures, flavors, etc. In a deconstructed dish, each component needs to be able to stand alone, and work with the other components.

                                      I hope this helps.

                                      1. re: ChefDude

                                        I agree that these versions of creme brulee are not deconstructed, but I think they are interesting takes on an old classic and would be fine so long as you don't call them deconstructed.

                                        I can also share an example of deconstruction -- I did a deconstructed moussaka once where I served a roasted rack of lamb, a chopped eggplant and tomato stew, a single thick round of fried golden yukon potato, and a savory, creamy thing I made by starting with a bechamel type of sauce, adding way more cheese and baking it in a muffin tin to give it shape and brown it. This way all of the layers of the Moussaka (lamb, eggplant, potato -- which is in the moussaka I had growing up although I know it's not in everyone's -- and bechamel sauce) are there, but in their own corners doing their own thing, in new ways.

                                        You (OP) seem to have the new ways part down. And it's totally fine to make something and call it a riff on a creme brulee, or creme brulee redux, or brulee and creme, or many clever names I'm sure you could think of if you want --it doesn't HAVE to be deconstructed to be reconceived!

                                        1. re: Adrienne

                                          I agree with you, too. And nice idea re: your moussaka. Going back to one of my first comments - Does it even make sense deconstructing something that has only 2 components?
                                          Also, going a little deeper - the whole "brulee" thing. It's not existent anymore, so, yes, calling it something other than deconstructed is key, as well as not using the term brulee.