Including a chef mini torch for desserts as part of your kitchen equipment is a great idea.
A torch can be a wonderful addition to any kitchen. You could caramelize your crème brûlée with the flamethrower you used on the dandelions, but why try? For one thing, you might catch the kitchen on fire; for another, if you use a propane-fueled torch in the kitchen, everything might taste like propane. This is not a desirable trait in most food products.
Instead, use propane’s better-behaved little brother, a handsome, butane-powered kitchen all-star, a chef mini torch. You can roast peppers, loosen tomato skins and, of course, give the signature brûlée crunch to a variety of delicious dishes.
See www.ChefDepot.net/Minitorch.htm for some mini torch models.
Here’s an easy-peasy brûlée recipe to get you started.
K.C.’s Crème Brûlée Recipe
1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
¾ cup very fine granulated sugar
9 egg yolks
Heat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Place cream in saucepan. Split vanilla bean and scrape insides into the pan. (Toss the bean peel in if the extra vanilla flavor makes you happy. I certainly do.) Bring cream/vanilla mixture to a low simmer. (Watch carefully so it doesn’t boil!) Strain cream into a bowl and allow to cool.
In another bowl, cream sugar and egg yolks together. Slowly add the cooled cream into egg yolk mixture (if it’s too hot, it will curdle the egg yolks, so be patient). Divide the mixture into ramekins and fill about 3/4 of the way. Place the ramekins in a roasting pan, which you then fill with water to the level of the custard in your ramekins. Bake until the custard is set (about 40 minutes). Remove ramekins from pan and allow to cool slightly.
Sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on top of each custard. Using your kitchen torch, sweep the flame quickly and evenly across the surface of the sugar until it begins to bubble and turn brown.
For variations, try adding orange peel, mint leaves, finely ground espresso, shaved chocolate or even a layer of chopped nuts just under the sugar top. Just use your imagination — and that itty bitty blowtorch.
— K.C. Compton