Week 5 - Burnt Creame

Welcome to Week 5 (already!) of the Great Colonial Cook Off. Each year there’s one dish that visitors to the Colony’s Kitchen totally flip over. Not suprisingly, last week’s chicken jello did not make the short list. But this week’s? I’m putting money on it.

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This week’s recipe is actually two - a French and an English version of the same classic dish now known as Creme Brulee (which is the French translation of the much less sexy sounding “burnt cream”). Surprisingly, both 17th century recipes call for an unbaked custard. For Lori and Krista, this means one week they don’t have to tend a roaring fire long enough to produce baking coals (Huzzah!). Great news considering the unusually hot and humid weather we’re currently experiencing here in Newfoundland.

Also surprising is that the French version is lighter and has less fat than the English version.... although the former does have more ingredients. Cook one or, if you’re a super keener (yes Sharon, we’re looking at you!), cook both. We’re looking forward to seeing which version visitors, staff and you prefer.

The French version comes courtesy of Francois Massialot’s Le Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois first published in 1691 (it was later translated into English under the title The Court and Country Cook).

You must take four or five egg yolks, depending on the size of your dish or plate. You will dilute them well in a saucepan, with a good pinch of flour, and little by little you will pour milk, about a pint. There must be some cinnamon in stick, & chopped lime peel, & other candied. You can also chop orange peel like that of lime; & then we call it Crème brûlée à l’orange. To make it more delicate, you can mix crushed pistachios, or almonds with a drop of orange flower water. You must put it on the furnace and stir it always, taking care that your cream does not attach to the bottom. When it is well cooked, put a plate or plate on a lit furnace, and having poured the Cream in it, cook it again until you see that it is attached to the edge of the dish. Then it is necessary to draw back and sweeten it over, besides the sugar that is put in it; we take the fire shovel, red hot, and burn the cream with it at once, so that it takes a beautiful golden color. For garnish, use feuillantine, small fleurons or meringues, or other crunchy dough cuts. Ice your cream, if you want; otherwise serve without it, always for Entremets.
 Totally useless fact of the day.... Maissialot's cookbook was the first to include an alphabetized index of recipes.

Totally useless fact of the day.... Maissialot's cookbook was the first to include an alphabetized index of recipes.

In Maissialot’s day, Entremets were a kind of hors d’oeuvre served on a side table during the second course of a formal meal. Maissialot suggests that creme brulee be served alongside mushrooms in cream, bread stuffed with ham and salad of asparagus. Whatever turns your crank ... I guess!

Here’s a 21st century version courtesy of the fantastic website Coquinaria by food historian Christianne Muusers:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 5 egg yolks (save those whites)
  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Option 1 - With Oranges

  • ⅓ cup almond flour (the finer the almonds, the smoother your final custard)
  • grated zest of 2 oranges
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water (optional or substitute with 1 tsp of orange liqueur e.g. Grand Marnier or Cointreau

Option 2 - With limes

  • ⅓ cup finely ground pistacchio nuts (the finer your pistacchios, the smoother your final custard)
  • grated zest of 3 limes
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water (optional)

To Finish

  • Enough white sugar to cover the custard. Can also use brown sugar.

Step 1

Pour milk into a medium saucepan. Add your cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and strain. Set aside to cool a little.

Step 2

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, flour, sugar, orange blossom water/orange liqueur (if using) and either ground almonds and orange zest or ground pistachios and lime zest.

Step 3

Slowly (very slowly!) add the warm milk to the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.

Step 4

Using a double boiler, reheat the mixture, stirring constantly until it has thickened to a custard consistency (If you can draw a clean line through it on the back of a spoon, using your finger, it’s done).

Step 5

Immediately pour the custard into a large shallow dish, or in individual ramekins. Let stand, uncovered, until it has cooled to room temperature. If you are serving later, you can place the cool custard in the fridge. The top of your custard will form a slightly dried skin. This is a good thing.

Step 6

Preheat the your oven grill, light your blow torch, or heat up your fire shovel/salamander. Sprinkle the entire surface of your custard with a thin layer of sugar. Pop your dish(es) under the grill or apply your blow torch/fire shovel/salamander until the sugar has carmelized and begins to bubble.  

Serve immediately as the carmelized sugar will gradually soften as it absorbs moisture from the custard.

The English version is courtesy of Eleanor Fettiplace’s 1647 recipe book:

Take thicke creame put some nyttmegge and sugar into yt [it] and boyle yt well on the fire, then beate the yelkes of vi egges very well and take some of yor boyled creame and stirr yt wth yor eggs then put yt to the rest of your creame and boyle it apace on walme, then put yt in a dishand let yt stand untill yt bee cold.

Here’s our best guess at a 21st century version:

  • 2 cups of cream
  • six egg yolks
  • 1 heaping table spoon of sugar
  • a pinch each of powdered/grated nutmeg

Step 1

Pour cream into a medium saucepan. Add nutmeg. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and strain. Set aside to cool a little.

Step 2

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar.

Step 3

Slowly (very slowly!) add the warm cream to the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.

Step 4

Using a double boiler, reheat the mixture, stirring constantly until it has thickened to a custard consistency (If you can draw a clean line through it on the back of a spoon, using your finger, it’s done).

Step 5

Immediately pour the custard into a large shallow dish, or in individual ramekins. Let stand, uncovered, until it has cooled to room temperature. If you are serving later, you can place the cool custard in the fridge. The top of your custard will form a slightly dried skin. This is a good thing.

Step 6

Preheat the your oven grill, light your blow torch, or heat up your fire shovel/salamander. Sprinkle the entire surface of your custard with a thin layer of sugar. Pop your dish(es) under the grill or apply your blow torch/fire shovel/salamander until the sugar has carmelized and begins to bubble.  

Serve immediately as the carmelized sugar will gradually soften as it absorbs moisture from the custard.

Good luck and remember.... Post of photo of your creme brulee and/or burnt custard to the Colony of Avalon’s Facebook page for a change to win weekly and grand prizes. Deadline for Week 5 is midnight, Monday, July 30. Can't wait to see your Colonial Custard Creation!

Jane SeversComment