Don’t judge me, but one of my favorite tv characters of my teenage years was Zeke from High School Musical… I, umm, watched it with my little sister… Anyway, I related to his character because he was black, played basketball, and could bake. Crème Brulee to be exact. So I made it my mission to learn the art of crème brulee making.
I often refer to protein coagulation in reference to custard making, but what does it mean? The proteins in eggs are water-soluble, so they are dissolved in the egg white and egg yolk. When proteins are heated they coagulate. Coagulation means that the egg proteins are denatured (their bonds break and are disrupted) causing them to form new bonds. These proteins are no longer water soluble. In fact, instead of being trapped in water, the proteins now are able to trap the water and other ingredients.
This might appear to be strange, but consider this. Water has a molecular weight of 18 Da. Triglycerides typically have molecular weight less than 1000 Da. And sucrose has a molecular weight of 342 Da. The molecular weight of albumin is between 65,000 Da and 70,000 Da. That is up to 3,888 times the weight of water.
Water solvates the albumin typically by use of sheer number of molecules, but when coagulation occurs the proteins flip the script and begin to trap everything else. Coagulated custards are referred to as being set. It is important to not overheat the custard or curdling will occur, however. It is best to remove custard from oven when center is still a little wobbly. As the custard cools, it will continue to set until completely stable.
1.5 cups whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
1 tbs of vanilla
5 egg yolks
3/4 cup of sugar
2 cups of blueberries (sprinkled with a bit of sugar)
3 tbs of brown sugar + 1 tbs of white sugar
Makes 6 servings
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Bring cream and milk just to simmer in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat.
- Whisk yolks, vanilla and sugar in large bowl to blend. Slowly whisk 1/3 of the heated mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Then slowly whisk the egg yolk mixture into the main pot.
- Strain mixture into another bowl. Cool 10 minutes, skimming any foam from the surface.
- While the custard cools, cover the bottom of the six ramekins with blueberries.
- Divide custard mixture among six custard cups or soufflé dishes. Cover each with foil. Place cups in large baking pan. Add enough hot water to pan to come halfway up sides of cups.
- Bake until custards are set but centers still move slightly when gently shaken, about 50 minutes to one hour and 10 minutes. If you do not cover with foil, the custards will cook substantially faster. This is not ideal.
- Remove from water. Remove foil. Chill custards until cold, about 3 hours.
- Mix the brown sugar and white sugar together.
- Sprinkle the sugar mixture on top of custards and then broil until the sugars melt (Try to get the custard as close to the broiler heat as possible for as short a time as possible)