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Jan 8, 2011 06:18 PM

Why did my creme brulee fail???

So a few weeks ago, I made a creme brulee recipe, and even though I did EVERYTHING correctly, and my oven is new and convection, they would NOT set. The recipe said 40 minutes, but I had them in there, shaking them gently every 5-10 minutes, like the recipe said, and after 1.5 hours, I gave up, and through it out.. and when I did, I could see that it was still very liquid, and almost separated.
I also noticed that after about 30 minutes of the cooking, the tops started to blister and bubble gently, is this normal? It has never happened to me before.
Well, after my disapointment, I decided to try again with a different recipe (the first called for 325, the second for 350 F). And the same thing happened!!! I used a water bath, I was super careful with them. What did I do wrong?
These are the recipes I used:

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  1. That first recipe should have set, and the second one even more so. Are you sure you didn't overbake and then see the liquid separate out of the custard? They would have had some movement until they cooled - remember, the classic proportion for custard is 1 egg to 1 cup liquid, and you don't have a lot of egg in #1 to make it set firm. No, it's not normal for the tops to blister. It's a very gentle cooking process. On the other hand, opening the door every 5-10 minutes could really have interfered with the baking time.

    Don't know if that helped. How frustrating! I once ruined a batch of creme brulee with a kitchen torch that spit fuel on the tops. Not a fun thing to have to throw away!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Vetter

      The classic recipe for a custard is 2 eggs per cup of liquid.

    2. The Creme Brulee custard doesn't usually set during cooking, it sets as it cools. So it would not be unusual for it to be in a semi-liquid state when it came out of the oven and went onto a cooling rack. Refrigeration is typically required to get it completely set.
      I disagree with one of the recipes using hot tap water for the water bath. I always use water that has been brought to the boiling point. However, I can't say that this had any affect on your results.

      4 Replies
      1. re: todao

        Thank you both for your replies.
        I used boiling water for the bath.
        And yes, I have made creme brulee before and I always look for a "little jiggy", but this was completely not set. Like it was wobbling all over the place and you could see the liquid under the filmy surface.
        Is there any chance that the use of maple syrup (a liquid) as apposed to solid sugar interfered with its setting?

        1. re: hungryabbey

          I suppose it's a possibility. But sugar is considered a liquid ingredient, because it melts into solution. I've never made Creme Brulee with Maple Syrup (or any other kind for that matter) so I couldn't say for sure. I can tell you that this recipe:
 uses about half the amount of egg yolks that I would use (I'd use at least five) and I don't use the whites, just the yolks.

          1. re: todao

            Good to know. Thanks for the tip. Ill make sure to keep that in mind next time Im searching for recipes.

            So Vetter said 1 cup liquid= 1 egg.. but this recipe had approx 2.5 cups of liquid if you include the syrup.. and has 3 yolks and 1 whole egg..
            so would you recommend 2 egg yolks per cup?

        2. re: todao

          Varying the temperature of the water bath essentially just varies the amount of time the custard spends in the baking. The water will eventually reach 100C - using hotter water just gets it there more quickly.

        3. I use 2 cups of HEAVY creme and 6 egg yoks in 4 ramequins. I cook these in a bain marie at 300 degrees for 30 minutes in the lower 1/3 of my oven. They come out perfect, every time (three times now). I check at 25 minutes by jiggling the rack, I see the custard clearly is unset, I shut the door and let cook 5 more minutes. see "Cooks Illustrated" December 2001 issue for very detailed and bullet-proof procedures for making successful creme brulee. I just cooked these tonight for dinner guests. Perfectly smooth and unctuous custard. It really isn't complicated -- it seems you may not be using enough egg yolks. And my recipe does not use any egg whites -- 100% egg yolks (plust the heavy cream, of course).

          1. I use the ratio of 1 egg yolk for every 1/4 - 1/3 cup of cream; I don't use any whole eggs. I found this information doing a search, sorry I don't remember the source.

            1. I covered mine with a cookie sheet, works everytime