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Feb 23, 2018
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By the Book: Christophe Felder’s Crème Brûlée Vanille au Zeste de Citron Vert

April 30th 02:04pm, 2013

Christophe Felder’s Patisserie is an encyclopedic tome of French pastry. Wanna learn to make croissants or macarons? The book has complex recipes like these, broken down step-by-step and interspersed with process photos to guide you along the way (particularly useful for novice bakers). The vast collection of French desserts in this book is impressive alone. I chose to make crème brûlée because, surprisingly, I’ve never made it, and I’ve always loved it. It’s a quintessential French dessert but so much easier than the odyssey that is Marronnier (chocolate-chestnut layer cake) on page 346.

Many crème brûlée recipes have you bake the custards in a bain marie, which is a water bath, but this one didn’t, which I thoroughly appreciated. It’s always a pain to set those things up, and I inevitably spill water everywhere. Instead, the recipe instructs to place the custards in a 200-degree oven for an hour and fifteen minutes.

When they came out, I was excited that they were solid but trembling slightly in the middle – just like the recipe described.

The recipe does not tell you to chill the custards but to just let them cool completely. Well, my impatience got the best of me. I chilled one in the freezer for about 30 minutes and then brûléed the top under a broiler. It was not good. The custard was still loose, and because it wasn’t completely chilled, it still had a really strong egg taste, like a vanilla-citrus-scented soft scramble. Weird.

However, the next day, I tried another custard and the time-alone-to-itself period made a difference. The custard had a chance to condense; albeit, still runnier in texture than the thick, velvety versions I’m used to, it was much better. Perhaps an hour and fifteen minutes was not long enough to make it set in my oven. The flavor improved overnight too … less eggy and a lot more like the flavor of well … crème brûlée.

Crème Brûlée Vanille au Zeste de Citron Vert
(Lime-Vanilla Crème Brûlée)
Serves 4

Special equipment: individual gratin dishes

2½ vanilla beans
1 cup milk
5 eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
½ lime
½ cup light brown sugar

• Split the vanilla beans lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a paring knife. Bring the milk and vanilla seeds and beans to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and let infuse.
• Separate the eggs and place the yolks in a bowl. Whisk the sugar into the egg yolks, just until the sugar dissolves. The mixture should not pale in color.
• Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
• Add the cream to the egg yolk-sugar mixture, whisking until smooth. Then whisk the cooled milk into the mixture until smooth.
• Using a citrus zester, remove the colored zest from the lime in fine julienne strips, leaving the white pith. Or use a vegetable peeler and cut the zest into julienne strips with a knife.
• Divide the zest among the grain dishes. Ladle the custard into the dishes
• Depending on the size of the ramekins, bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes, just until the custard is slightly wobbly. Let cool completely.
• Sift ½ of the brown sugar in an even layer over the custards. Using a kitchen torch, caramelize the sugar. Or broil the custards on the top shelf of the oven. Sprinkle the crème brûlées with the remaining brown sugar and caramelize again.
• Serve immediately.

Reprinted with permission from Rizzoli International Publications.

What’s your favorite dessert to order out and why? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy Patisserie. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Katie, whose comment on last week’s By the Book has won her a copy of French Bistro. Katie, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew. 

By Meera Nagarajan

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6 Responses to “By the Book: Christophe Felder’s Crème Brûlée Vanille au Zeste de Citron Vert”

  1. Joe Says:
    April 30th, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Soufflé for the sheer fact I’m too impatient to make it at home!

  2. Mark Neel Says:
    April 30th, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    When ordering a desert out at a restaurant, I usually stick to one of two things depending upon the type of place I’m eating. If it’s on the menu and it’s authentic, then it’s Key Lime Pie. I adore the contrast of the tangy lime custard and the sweet meringue. If I’m at an Italian restaurant, the I chose Tiramisu. I enjoy the subtle variations in preparation and ingredients. Whether it’s Lady Fingers or Sponge Cake. The addition of Brandy, Amaretto, or Grand Mariner to the Expresso. The type of Marscapone used, all make for endless subtle differences.

  3. Amy Says:
    April 30th, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Just like in the movie Amelie I love the sound of your spoon cracking the caramelized sugar before digging into velvety custard. I think the best that I have had was at Atlas around 2005. Mmmmm perfection.

  4. Colleen Says:
    April 30th, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    Ice cream is always a wonderful treat. Whether the flavor is simple & traditional or complex & innovative, I love them all!

  5. Katie Says:
    April 30th, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    Tiramisu. If only everywhere did it correctly. I think I’ve had as many bad tiramisu as I have good!

  6. Hao Says:
    May 2nd, 2013 at 10:37 am

    i love bread pudding. i love the spongy texture, the syrupy sweetness, and then warmness it brings. If it comes with vanilla ice cream, i’ll be in heaven.

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