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The kitchen torch, culinary torch, cooking torch or [less poetically] butane torch is used by chefs and sophisticated home cooks.
Today’s handy culinary torch descends from the heavy duty blowtorches, long used by gold and silversmiths (the first patent dates to 1791).
While its most famous kitchen use is to caramelize the sugar on the top of crème brûlée, it is also handy to:
Brown meringue (we use it for Baked Alaska)
Char vegetables such as bell peppers
Melt or brown toppings on casseroles and soups
Affordable at $25 or so, it’s well worth it if you’d like an easy alternative to using the broiler or holding peppers over the stove flame. You can pick one up at most kitchenware retailers or online.
Always a treat: crème brûlée. Photo courtesy QVC.
If you get one now, you can make Crème Brûlée for Valentine’s Day. Digging into that crunchy, crackly caramelized sugar topping and eating a piece with the creamy custard underneath is one of dessert’s great experiences. You can make it a signature special-occasion dish.
Here’s a recipe from QVC’s David Venable. If you want to add a Grand Marnier accent, take a look at this recipe.
You’ll need round or oval ceramic ramekins: 5-ounce ramekins for four servings, 3-ounce ramekins for seven servings. This set (photo below) from Bonjour includes both the torch and the ramekins.
RECIPE: CRÈME BRÛLÉE
Ingredients For 4 Servings
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar, divided
9 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons dark spiced rum
White sugar (2-1/2 teaspoons for 5-ounce ramekins or 1-1/2 teaspoons for 3-oz ramekins)
Optional garnish: fresh berries
You can also use the torch to melt the cheese on French onion soup, toast marshmallows and more. Photo courtesy Bonjour.
1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F.
2. BRING the cream and 1/2 cup of the brown sugar to a simmer in a 2-qt saucepan.
3. LIGHTLY WHISK together the egg yolks and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar in a medium-size mixing bowl. Temper the egg mixture by slowly pouring the cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Add the vanilla and the rum and continue whisking until fully incorporated. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Place the bowl with the brûlée mixture into an ice water bath and let cool completely.
4. PLACE the ramekins in a large baking dish. Divide the brûlée mixture evenly among the ramekins, filling them 3/4 of the way full. Place the baking dish in the middle rack of the oven and then fill it with hot tap water, to 2/3 of the way up the ramekin sides.
5. BAKE for 35-45 minutes for 4 (five-ounce) ramekins; or bake for 25-35 minutes for 7 (three-ounce) ramekins. When done, each brûlée will jiggle lightly in the center.
6. REFRIGERATE for 4 hours or overnight. Just before serving, sprinkle the white sugar over each cooled crème brûlée and torch until all of the sugar is melted and golden brown (it will begin to harden when the torch is removed). Serve immediately.
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