Sunday, June 8, 2008

Creme Brulee : The Westernized Egg Tart

In most Asian countries, egg tarts rules when Creme' Brulee tries to invade. However, it goes sideways when it comes to the Western countries, be it urban or sub-urban areas. The chinese egg tart; with flaky and crispy puff pastry, always remain as one of the best egg dessert among the Asians. Moreover, it is commonly served during breakfast; which is during the chinese Dim Sum session. Best eaten while it's hot, and accompanied by a freshly brewed chinese tea.

This may applied on the Westerners as well. A Creme' Brulee would be the one of the hundreds of egg desserts which would score high points and win the hearts of the Westerners. As Creme Brulee has an absolute advantage on showcasing the wonderful color of egg yolks in custard form, overlooking the texture and even the taste of the pastry crust-tart might not be a daunting sight after all.

The scores are in, egg custard work wonders. Just take a look at the evil-looking yet sinful baked cheesecakes which very much resembles the picture and texture of a egg custard with an aroma of full-fat cheese. Eggs play a vital role by adding fats, moisture and also binding the half-set cheesecake by setting up a protein matrix. It is sometimes surprising to find out how eggs consistently and successfully work its magic to the world of baking.

We have always been loyal consumers of chinese egg tarts as we love egg custard pretty much. Thus, not making a Creme' Brulee sounded villainous and silly; of bird brains and pea-sized brains, that is so Homer Simpson. We prepared the Creme' Brulee in 2 sizes, one into medium-sized flan dish and the remaining was as cute as mini cupcake-size.

The medium-sized Creme' Brulee inherits its forefathers' features, which has a slightly burnt top (of burnt and caramelized sugar) while the mini Creme' Brulee replicates the features of the normal sweet-crusted egg tart with no burnt top. We will have the time of our lives downing the egg-bakes one by one, savoring the true delight of Western egg tarts; the Creme' Brulee.

To some, Creme' Brulee might be tad plain to be devoured, but simplicity and the velvety and smooth egg custard filling is the key to a perfect Creme' Brulee. Nevermind the pastry crust first because the egg custard IS the sublime of the entire Brulee tart. It is best eaten while it's slightly cooled to room temperature. While the crust is prepared as thinly as possible, the egg custard on the other hand calls for one who bakes his/her way to generosity. Be generous with the filling. We filled the crust until the egg filling itself leveled with the sides of the crust. Goodness and very luscious brulee we've ever had (Isn't this the first time we had Brulee's?). The full-fat dairy whipping cream and vanilla extract lends a great help, aiding to a very vanilla-ish and silky Creme' Brulee.

The burnt top, made out of burnt sugar or caramelized sugar brought in the extra ummph, which makes the Creme' Brulee tasted pretty good though it's partly cold. The caramelized top can be done by pointing the blow torch towards a pool of brown sugar sprinkled onto the Creme' Brulee's surface. Otherwise, you can caramelized the top by sprinkling a layer of brown sugar on its surface and then, bake the Creme' Brulee in the oven (set at 180"C, lay the Creme' Brulee on the highest rack possible). The mini Brulee's or shall we just name these babies as Creme' Brulee Tartlets, make it to the dinner table while it's half-cooled. Nothing much in comparison except for the caramelized sugar, these Creme' Brulees rocked the dinner tables for good.

Creme' Brulee (Yields: Two 6-inch Creme' Brulees)

For the Tart Crust:
100g butter
50g icing sugar, sieved
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 egg, beaten lightly (for the remaining beaten egg mixture, add into the filling later to avoid wastage)
200g all-purpose flour, sieved

1. With an electric mixer, beat butter, icing sugar and vanilla extract until creamy.
2. Add in the egg and mix until smooth. Add in flour and mix until well-blended.
3. Gather dough and wrap with a cling film. Set aside at a cool area while making the filling.

For the Filling:
4 large egg yolks
50g caster sugar
1/2 tablespoon custard powder, sieved
375g dairy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. With a hand whisk, whisk egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl until pale yellow. Add in custard powder and mix until combined. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, boil whipping cream over low heat. When it starts to boil, remove from heat. Gradually add in whipping cream into the egg mixture in a slow stream, while continuously whisking the mixture. Keep stirring until well blended.
3. Strain mixture into a clean saucepan. Stir with a wooden spoon over low heat until the mixture thickens. Remove pan from heat. Add in vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Let cool. This will be the filling for the Creme' Brulee.

To assemble:
Portion of tart crust
Portion of fillings
1/4 cup brown sugar
Baking beans (Red beans or green beans can even be used; for blind-bake)

1. Preheat oven to 190"C. Grease the 6-inch flan or pie moulds with melted butter.
2. Divide the pastry dough into two portion as you will need to lay the pastry dough onto 2 of 6-inch flan or pie moulds. Roll out the pastry with a rolling pin to about 2-3mm thick and line onto the pie moulds.
3. Prick the pastry with fork to release air bubbles. Line the pastry moulds with greaseproof paper and baking beans. Bake at preheated oven of 190"C for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and beans and bake for another 5 minutes. Set on wire rack and let cool.
4. Spoon the filling into the already baked pastry crust until the filling is leveled with the top sides of the pastry crust.
5. Refrigerate the tarts into the refrigerator for at least 5 hours, best for overnight.
6. Remove tart from from refrigerator. Sprinkle the brown sugar on th surface of the tart. Using a blowtorch, caramelize the sugar.
7. Refrigerate for extra 2 to 3 hours. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and strawberry sauce to enjoy the euphoric moment.