I-Love-Wisconsin Maple Crème Brûlée

March 12, 2010 § 6 Comments

Because it’s March, and the sap is running, and I belong to a large, influential clan of syrup boilers, I decided I was going to expand my cooking horizons and find a few more uses for maple syrup. Luckily for me, my mother-in-law Dawn was in possession of this great book, which, on top of general information about sap collection and boiling, featured an ample selection of recipes that make use of this wonderful local product.

The recipe that spoke to me right away was the one for maple crème brûlée, because, for one, crème brûlée was something I always wanted to try, proven by the fact that a while back I picked a set of five crème brûlée dishes from Orange Tree in Madison. The rationale for this particular shape is such that you get to have a large area of crust in proportion to custard (the same reason Margarita glasses are shaped the way they are). For five years (sic!), the ramekins sat there without use, but, at last, their time has come.

In this recipe, 1/2 C of maple syrup is used in place of sugar, which is enough to give it a distinct maple flavor and aroma. As crème brûlée recipes go, this one called for heavy whipping cream, but since God just sent me nearly a gallon of free Organic Valley half-and-half (only in Wisconsin – don’t ask), I felt a bit of panic that it was going to go bad and swapped the cream in the recipe for half-and-half.

(Also note that I don’t have a blow torch and used my broiler instead.)

Here’s where I have to apologize for the lack of step-by-step pictures – you see, I didn’t originally plan to share this recipe here given that it was my first time making it, but I did snap a couple of pictures of the finished product, as I almost always do with the food I make for the first time.

The custards are ready to be chilled. Aren't they lovely?

A word of caution before you begin: If you never made custard before, here’s a little something to know: the success of your custard (grainy vs. silky-smooth) is all in how you mix your eggs with your milk/cream. Most importantly, you don’t want to combine them too fast, and you don’t want to combine them all at once, lest the eggs will cook in the hot liquid and it will all go downhill from there (now ask me how I know that). For that reason, add a small amount of hot liquid to the eggs first, and only in a thin stream of droplets, whisking constantly. Don’t even try to take an action shot with one hand while you are pouring with the other – had I adhered to this simple truth, you’d by now be introduced to maple flan. As is, a less-than-perfect, somewhat grainy flan is all between me and my mixing bowl.

Anyhow, here goes:

I-Love-Wisconsin Maple Crème Brûlée

Adapted from Sweet Maple: Life, Lore & Recipes from the Sugarbush

6 servings

  • 3 C half-and-half or cream (the h&h version yielded silky-smooth perfection, but no one said that it wouldn’t also be the case with heavy cream)
  • 1/2 C maple syrup
  • 9 egg yolks
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • brown sugar, for caramelizing

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Heat cream/h&h together with maple syrup over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until quite hot. In a separate large bowl, beat the egg yolks until blended. In a thin stream of droplets, add 1/2 C of hot mixture to the yolks, whisking constantly. Still whisking, gradually add the rest of the cream. Stir in vanilla extract.

Set 6 individual crème brûlée dishes, ramekins, or custard cups into larger oven-proof casserole pan (or pans – I had to use three separate dishes because of the width of the crème brûlée ramekins). Pour the cream-egg mixture through a fine sieve into the ramekins (that’s why it’s really nice to mix your egg and cream in a large Pyrex measuring cup such as this). Add hot water to the pan(s) to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Cover the pan(s) loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil shaped into a rough dome.

Bake for about 30 min, or until just set. Your custard can be wiggly in the center but must not be liquid. A good way to test custard is to insert a knife and see if it comes out clean. Immediately remove to a cooling rack (hint: if using crème brûlée dishes, use a large spatula, while supporting each ramekin with your other hand protected by a hot pad).

Allow to cool completely, and then place in the fridge for an hour without covering. After an hour, cover each custard with saran, and refrigerate for the additional 3 hours up to 48 hours. Just before serving (don’t try to do this in advance, otherwise the sugar crust will become soggy and begin to sink into the custard), sprinkle 1-1.5 t brown sugar on top of each custard, and place under broiler for 2-3 min, or until the sugar has melted and browned. Don’t let it burn! Alternatively, use a blow torch if you have one and know how to use it (I haven’t done it, and I can’t tell you how – and thereby release myself of any liability for personal injury or damage to property resulting from the use of this recipe).

Alternatively, skip the sugar-burning, and pour maple syrup all over the surface instead – that’s tasty too!

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