Almond Tuiles, Crème Brûlée and Kitchen Torches

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Last week was Calvin’s spring break from school. I took the week off from my current babysitting job, and since I am in a (very long) freelance writing lull, I was footloose and fancy-free too. Rich’s mom came to visit for the last half of the week and we had our usual butter bacchanalia, with a bit of sugar thrown in. Rich was able to take Friday off, so we had a nice long weekend of family time. As I mentioned in Monday’s post, Rich’s dad opted to skip the trip north in favor of Florida sunshine and warm weather. He really was the smart one, given our huge snowstorm on Sunday. But he missed out on our snowy day apple crisp and all the other goodies too.

We had a nice mix of homemade creations and bakery treats. We managed to get to Pint Size Bakery just in time for their salted caramel croissants (kouing amann by another name). Our discussion of them while we were in line even inspired the man in front of us to buy one. The lady in front of him joined in the conversation with the comment that they were so good that they made her eyes roll back in her head. High praise for sure. They were just as tasty as we remembered (though I don’t think we had any eye rolling) and I am now inspired to try making them again. This time I’ll make smaller ones, and work on not over caramelizing the sugar.

We also picked up a few frangipane muffins from Pint Size, and they were as fabulous as we remembered. I am going to have to tweak my recipe for blueberry almond muffins a bit to try and duplicate the texture of the frangipane muffins. Oh, the baking experiments that are going to go on here!

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On the home front, we made garlic bread with homemade bread. Or rather Calvin made garlic bread and we all happily ate it. Mary and I made almond tuile cookies and we all made almond crème brûlée together. That one was Calvin’s request and I’m not sure where he got the idea (maybe from our mutual Food Network “Chopped” habit?).

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I have never made crème brûlée, and it showed. I have certainly not mastered the kitchen torch. We had everything from burnt sugar to barely melted sugar to flaming brown sugar. We tried both brown and white sugars to see which worked better – in my hands, neither. I wasn’t totally happy with the custard base either. It had enough whipping cream and egg yolks in it that it should have been fabulous, but it was just ho hum and too sweet to boot. I will be tweaking and trying more recipes before I post one to share. And my torching technique needs work. If you have any tips, please share. Or if you have used the broiler successfully, tell me how. We tried that too and it was no more successful than the torch.

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But, aesthetics aside, we had a great time playing with the torch and we managed to avoid catching anything (except for the brown sugar) on fire. The tuiles were the successful experiment of the week and I will be posting on them soon. They are much easier than they look and we are all sad that they are gone. We are also sad that Mary went home. But we will be seeing both my in-laws in a couple of months, which really isn’t long to wait. Just enough time to perfect my torch skills!

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2 thoughts on “Almond Tuiles, Crème Brûlée and Kitchen Torches

  1. Creme Brulee is a heckuva lot easier to torch, IF you can find the more shallow creme brulee dishes/ramekins. In a deeper small dish like you show here, you don’t get the fast, full/even heat application needed, for the caramelizing you want to end up with, the shatter-y crust. Also, if you spend more time than necessary, trying to melt the sugar, you heat up the creme base, which is NOT good…lol! I’ve got a torch, and an old fashioned salamander, which I just heat on the stove top, then apply near the tops of the ramekins. Doing under a broiler is also kinda iffy, but I’ve done it…you just have to watch very carefully. A few years ago, for a Thanksgiving meal I was doing, I made pumpkin creme brulees/Emeril…my ‘helper’ was a plumber, and he just got out his GIANT acetlyne torch, and let ‘er rip! Only took about 1/2 a minute per… It was great! He got a really big kick out of it, and the brulees were DELICIOUS! I like to use turbinado sugar, personally.

    Your tuiles turned out beautifully…love those things!

    • Laura,
      Thanks for the tips! I knew there had to be something we were doing wrong. I already have the shallow ramekins on my Christmas list, unless I find them sooner. Love the story about the plumber and his torch! Alton Brown used to pull out a torch from the hardware store on “Good Eats.” I have a bigger than normal kitchen torch that Rich got me for my birthday. It isn’t as huge as a hardware version, but it is bigger than the tiny kitchen torches you see.

      The tuiles were definitely the kitchen success of the week. Thanks for the compliments!
      Sarah

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