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Melting Sugar On Creme Brulee

Asked by ROZENCRANTZ. Answered on 2nd November 2017

Full question

I was looking at the Creme Brulee recipe and just wondered how it was finished off before the invention of the blowtorch?

Creme Brulee
Photo by Francesca Yorke
Creme Brulee
By Nigella
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Our answer

For Nigella's Creme Brulee (from NIGELLA BITES) the sugar topping is caramelized by using a small blowtorch. These are found in many cookware stores and also on-line. It is also possible to caramelize the sugar under a hot grill (broiler) if you don't have a blowtorch.

The first references to a dessert similar to creme brulee appeared in medieval Catalan recipe records and in this version iron rods were heated in a fire and then pressed onto the sugar. Then the French chef Francois Massialot listed a recipe in his cookbook around 1691, where the sugar was caramelized using a hot fire shovel. After this a version of creme brulee was made at Trinity college, Cambridge, called Trinity Cream or Cambridge Burnt Creams, where the sugar was caramelized using a hot branding iron with the college's coat of arms. The use of blowtorches became popular in the 1980s. Today Crema Catalana should still have the sugar caramelized with a hot branding iron, though most home cooks will not have access to these and use grills or blowtorches.

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