Hi! Every time I try to make a creme catalan or creme brulee the cream ends up tasting like sweet scrambled eggs and I have to throw the lot out. What am I doing wrong??
If you have a mixture resembling sweet scrambled eggs then the eggs in the creme brulee are curdling and this happens because they become over heated. If you are making the custard in a saucepan then we suggest that you look at Nigella's Creme Brulee recipe from Kitchen. She suggests keeping a sinkful of cold water ready so that you can use it to cool the saucepan quickly if the custard looks like it is overheating.
If you are using the oven method then there are 3 points in making a creme brulee that this is could happen.
First when you add hot cream to the egg yolk and sugar mixture if the cream is boiling and too hot it can curdle the eggs. You should scald the cream mixture (just bring it up to boiling point, with a few bubbles around the edge of the saucepan), then take it off the heat and let it cool for a minute or so. Whisk around 4 tablespoons/60ml/1/4 cup of the warm cream to the eggs first, this "tempers" them so they warm up a little, before whisking in the remaining cream in a thin stream.
It is easy to overcook the custards if you cook them directly in an oven, even a low one. Cook the custards in a bain marie - a roasting tin filled with hot water - which gives a gentle and even heat. Make sure that the water comes about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the dishes. Follow the oven temperature given in the recipe but this should not be mroe than 180c/350F.
Finally, don't cook the custards for too long and strt checking them 5-10 minutes before the end of the stated cooking time. The custards should still have some "wobble" in the very centre when you remove them from the oven. They will set more as they cool. If you cook the custards for too long then the texture will be grainy and unpleasant.