Performance anxiety

When foodie friends come to dinner, it’s stressful. For instance … very foolishly I had, about a year ago, boasted of my crème brulée to a friend whose wife is a superb cook and now they were coming to dinner … here at last was my chance to perform. So, made it the night beforehand, but wasn’t happy. It seemed to take a very long time in the oven to set, and I just knew it was overcooked. So the next morning decided I’d try again – though quite what I’m going to do with 16 egg whites, I don’t know! But first, I also knew, I needed a brulée torch. Had a very organised car trip planned … could hit three shops in reasonably close vicinity & be home within the hour. Hah! Previously I’d used a gas torch from the garage for brulée -ing … but did the first, or the second hardware store have any in stock? Of course not. Eventually, at the other end of the city, found several different types, some of industrial bulk & clearly not suitable. So I dithered. And eventually ended up at Moore Wilson’s, where they had explicitly labeled brulée torches. Double the price of the hardware store, but at least I knew it was designed for the purpose. Hmm. Adequate at best, I discovered that evening. Anyway, home to make a second dish of custard for the brulée … even this, I thought, a little over-cooked and a tad too sweet … probably shouldn’t have replaced the sugar with caster sugar. Maybe I just need more practice? Have made this recipe before (it’s from Richard Till) and it’s been splendid. Greatly impressed another foodie friend! But am a bit OD’d on crème brulée for now. Won’t be making it again any time soon.

3 cups cream

8 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla essence

Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 130 C. Put all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Pour into an ovenproof dish and set in a roasting pan. Add hot water to pan so it comes halfway up side of brulée dish. Bake for 1 ½ hours or till set. It’s set when the centre wobbles slightly when the dish is lightly shaken.

Cool and refrigerate overnight. Just before serving, dust with about 6 tbsp caster sugar & brulée with torch.

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