You Probably Shouldn’t Use a Measuring Cup to Caramelize Creme Brulee.
Creme brulee is an impeccable dessert, but if you don’t have a kitchen torch, you probably won’t make it at home. But Food Network claims it has a trick for getting the perfect, caramelized, crunchy layer of sugar with a simple metal measuring cup. However, the question of whether this actually works is controversial.
I have a kitchen flashlight, but I spent many sad years without a brulee without one, so I wanted to see if it really is that easy to get this glass sugar crust using what everyone already has. (Also I just wanted to be paid to cook and eat a lot of cans of creme brulee.)
As explained in the video above, the idea is pretty simple: Prepare the crème brulee as usual – I used the ChefSteps sous-vide recipe because it’s simple and flawless – and sprinkle with good sugar. Then, instead of setting fire to the wonderful custard, place a metal measuring cup on the stove to get the bottom really hot. Grasp the handle with a towel or oven mitt and gently press the bottom of the measuring cup against the sugar. It should sizzle and burst, and when you take out the cup, there should be a crunchy sweet shell behind it.
I had several doubts about this. First, a Facebook video preview shows a crème brulee with an uneven, still partly sugar-coated crème. I also found it interesting that they prevented us from getting a good look at the top of the crème brulee or the bottom of the measuring cup when Katy Lee did her job.
Obviously the side-by-side comparison was appropriate, so I made a bunch of crème brulee – rather than the white chocolate pudding from the video above – and cooked them in two ways. The one I set on fire turned out to be fine, although my impatience left a small burnt spot.
Custard in measuring cups also did not do. The crust was fine, but it was a little uneven and most of the sugar stuck to my measuring cup.
Also, now I have a sad measuring cup. (I cleaned it up, but it looks about the same.)
While this hack technically works, there are problems. Not only did the cup rip off some of my sugar – a terrible sin – it’s all clogged up, which means you’ll have to peel and then reheat the cup for each creme brulee pot, which will be annoying. So I’ll stick with my flashlight and I recommend that you do the same.