2 weeks ago
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Approximately 5 or 6 hours a day, three or four days a week, when I am not doing the things I REALLY love, like spending time with my family, food blogging, or creating themed seasonal displays in my frontyard, I work as a bankruptcy lawyer. Now I know, I know, when you hear "bankruptcy lawyer" you think: Dry. Humorless. Socially awkward. Yes, I KNOW those are the stereotypes, so I feel like I need to just go ahead and state for the record that . . . yup, that's pretty much right on the money. We are a dry, humorless, and socially awkward bunch.
Anyway, I mention this only because as we all know, the economy is unfortunately in the tank these days, and that means that it's the busy season for the bankruptcy folks. They don't call us "harbingers of doom" for nothing. And while I have been just a part-time bankruptcy lawyer since having kids, on rare occasions during the particularly busy times I sometimes have to work much longer hours for a short but intense stretch. Well, last week was one of those weeks, as we were getting ready file a large chapter 11 (in fact, Julie and Amanda were here too; Amanda even brought a Dimply Plum Cake to share with the rest of us!). So all week long, I got home late and fell into bed sometime after midnight. I started to have panic attacks that I might not get to make the creme brulee because I simply would not have time to go out and get a torch. Amanda was clearly worried about this too, and so one night at work, we plotted her secret early escape from the office to procure the goods from Bed, Bath & Beyond before it closed for the night. It was touch and go for a while there, because we didn't really leave her much time to get out to BB&B, and I could not concentrate on another thing until an email from Amanda landed in my inbox, Subject: WE HAVE TORCHES AND BUTANE.
At close to midnight on Sunday, after working around the clock all weekend long and having just put 25 car dealerships into bankruptcy, Amanda and I stood together in our breakroom with the instruction manual and tried to figure out how to load the butane into our creme brulee torches. And somehow that seemed like a perfectly normal thing to be doing at the time.
Creme brulee has a very short ingredient list, which often means there is little room for error with that handful of ingredients. But to my pleasant surprise, this came together really easily. It took all of 10 minutes to prepare the ingredients and fill the dishes with the custard. It really wasn't all that much harder to make than instant pudding! Oh, I'll be taking that little secret with me to my grave. Now, I did think that the baking part was a little trickier than the mixing part. Dorie says to bake the custard at 200 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes. Sixty minutes in, my custards were still as jiggly as my thighs since joining TWD. I let it go until 90 minutes, when it was STILL JIGGLY!!! I finally gave up and decided to just take it out and hope for it to set up when it chilled, and it pretty much did.
Then it was time to torch. I admit that I was a little afraid of the torch. I'm what some would call "accident prone," and probably not the kind of person who needs to be operating a blowtorch under any circumstances, much less immediately after coming off a weeklong stretch of limited sleep. I made sure to try out the torch for the first time before David got home, so he didn't have to suffer through watching me use it. Like the custard-making itself, the blowtorching was far easier than I ever could have imagined! I assume that it takes a little practice to get really good at it, and I probably overcarmelized certain areas of my creme brulee, but overall, it worked like a charm and I was thrilled with the result.
I rarely order creme brulee in restaurants; I like it, but I usually prefer flour to show up somewhere in my desserts. David, on the other hand, really loves creme brulee and will often choose it if it is on the menu. I was so happy to be able to make this for him after he picked up the slack for me all week, and spent the weekend in the house by himself with three small kids and no beer. THIS MAN DESERVES A CREME BRULEE. And he really enjoyed this one. It probably could have stood a little extra time in the fridge (I took it out and carmelized it right at the three hour mark) and was not quite as "custardy" as I would have liked, but the flavor was wonderful. I expect that the three remaining custards in my refrigerator will benefit from the extra time in there and will be perfect tomorrow night or the following night.
I will definitely be keeping creme brulee in the "special dessert" rotation, especially now that I own a blowtorch and am not afraid to use it. It's a perfect "company" dessert -- it can be made ahead, it's easy yet impressive, and it comes with a live pyrotechnic show. What's not to love? A big thanks to Mari from Mevrouw Cupcake for choosing this classic!