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April 24, 2007

Sugar High Friday #30: Rosebud Crème Brûlée


I'm late to the SHF party! But when I saw the flower theme I couldn't resist putting something together, even at the last minute.

This is a rendition of one of Citizen Cake's signature desserts. Billed as the "pastry chef's restaurant", Citizen Cake has reigned in San Francisco for years as both an elegant full-service restaurant and a top-notch pâtisserie. Cakes, pastries, confections, and ice creams come out of Elizabeth Falkner's kitchen in a dizzying swirl, all classically based but with modern, playful twists: the popular Retro Tropical Shag is composed of layers of rum-soaked genoise filled with passionfruit mousse and vanilla buttercream and covered with coconut so it does, indeed, resemble those funky shag carpets. The charming Mocha Mi Su puts a spin on traditional tiramisu by mixing cocoa genoise with mocha mousse, chocolate ganache, and coffee buttercream.

Falkner's composed desserts really highlight her penchant for wordplay and kitchen-play - sophisticated combinations of flavors and textures, with a clever little in-jokes for names. For example, one of the their current desserts is named "Wagashi 2010", wagashi being traditional Japanese confections such as mochi, but Citizen Cake's rendition includes a dried persimmon mochi cake, crispy green tea soba, milk gelato, and a nori croquant. One of my favorite desserts the last time I went was the "Cha Cha Cha", composed of a tropical tamale with passionfruit crème brûlée and mojito paleta.


Falkner's rose petal crème brûlée is a staple on the menu; served with saffron-pistachio cookies, it's a delicate, floral air-kiss of dessert. Crème brûlée, like chocolate mousse, is another one of those desserts that can seem tired or overdone on menus, but done well in the hands of an expert, you remember exactly why it's so beloved.

As with all baked custards, the proof is in the baking - how you cook and supervise the custards will determine whether it achieves that delicate unctuous texture or it becomes tough and eggy. Custards need to bake evenly and slowly at a low temperature. This is why water baths are used - to help provide a gentle moist environment for the eggs in the custard to cook. I also place a towel on the bottom of the baking pan between the ramekins to further prevent any direct heat on the ramekins. Finally, if you want even more protection, you can always place a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the baking with some vent holes pierced in.

When the cooking time for the custards is done, check to see if the tops of the custards are set - they should shimmy slightly but the center should not move separately from the rest of the custard. You can also stick a thin knife into the custard (not in the center) and see if it comes out clean.

If they don't appear done, close the oven and bake for another 6-7 minutes. Resist the urge to constantly check on the custards; every time you open the oven more heat escapes, so given the low baking temperature you could end up with the custards never baking.

Of course, the best part of crème brûlées is the caramelizing of the sugar. I never thought I harbored any latent pyromania but there is a definite thrill in wielding a blowtorch and watching sugar bubble and brown beneath your eyes, forming that perfect crystalline surface just waiting for that Amélie-like tap-tap-tap.

Crème brûlées take very well to infusions of flavor, from teas to fruits to spices. I particularly enjoy this rose-scented one: sweet and springlike, the custard melts like silk on the tongue, leaving a whisper of rose and orange. The crystallized rose petals add a pretty dash of color; it is spring, after all, and the flowers are definitely in bloom!


Rosebud Crème Brûlée

makes about 6 servings in 4 1/2 ounce ramekins

2 cups heavy cream

1/8 teaspoon vanilla seeds, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 ounces egg yolks (about 4-5 eggs)

2 ounces sugar

1/4 teaspoon Grand Marnier

1/2 teaspoon rose water

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Find a baking pan that will fit all of the ramekins you plan to use. The sides of the pan should be at least as high as the ramekins. Line the bottom of the baking pan with a towel.

Heat the cream and vanilla in a medium saucepan on medium heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and let sit for about 10 minutes for the vanilla to infuse.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl.

Slowly pour about a third of the hot cream into the eggs, whisking all the time to prevent the eggs from curdling.

Pour the tempered eggs back into the cream, whisking constantly until combined. Whisk gently to prevent bubbles from forming.

Strain the mixture into a clean bowl.

Add the Grand Marnier and rose water and let the custard cool slightly.

Arrange the ramekins in the baking pan on top of the towel. Using a ladle, carefully, pour the custard into the ramekins, filling just below the rim. Try to fill all of the ramekins to the same height so they will bake evenly.

Carefully pour hot water into the baking pan until it comes up about 2/3 of the way up the sides of the ramekins. Do not let the water get into the pan.

Carefully place the baking pan into the oven and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour until set. I checked at about half an hour and at 45 minutes, but don't open the oven door too often or you'll lose all the heat and the custards will not cook. You can check the progress of the custards by sticking a paring knife into the custard slightly away from the center. If it comes out covered in liquidy custard, it's not done yet. Also, if you lightly touch the center of the custard and your fingertip comes away covered in custard it is also not done.

When the custards are done, they should shimmy slightly when you move the pan (careful not to spill water!) but the center should not move separately. If, however, it has set like Jello and there are bubbles forming on the top it is becoming overcooked and you should remove the custards immediately. If the custards start rising at any point they have become overcooked.

After you remove the baking pan from the oven and the ramekins have cooled enough to handle, remove the ramekins, cover them, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.

When you are ready to serve the crème brûlées, take one ramekin at a time and sprinkle the top with sugar evenly over the top. Using a hand-held blowtorch, carefully caramelize the sugar. Keep the flame at least 2 inches from the sugar to prevent burning the sugar. You can also caramelize the sugar under a broiler.

Let the sugar cool for a couple of minutes before serving. Do not brûlée the custards more than 20 minutes before serving or the sugar may melt.

Citizen Cake

399 Grove Street

San Francisco, CA 94102


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As always such a beautiful dessert. The composition ... the photos ... the writing ... everything. It's beautiful!

These sound decadent and romantic. I love your detailed instructions on how to tell when the brulees are cooked enough (or too much).

these look very feminine, but rich! I'm adding this shop to my list and also getting ready to try making the classic creme brulee. :)

Just lovely, lovely, lovely. I will never get tired of looking at creme brulee.

This looks great Anita! I like it when you break the crust and discover the creaminess inside. I never thought I had some pyromania in me either until I did my first bruleeing.

Lovely! I have just learnt how to make creme brulee at my apprenticeship and there we decor it with edible flowers that gave them a refreshing look! I shall propose a new look and perhaps create a variation to our menu to my chef with your version. Thanks! :) Keep posting anita!

Thanks for participating ! Your Rosebud Crème Brûlée topped with crystallized rose petals looks simply gorgeous, wonderful way of jazzing it up!

What delicious post Anita.
You make it sound so easy too.
I love the squared dishes you used instead of the usual rounded..

Anita, this is so beautiful! I'm glad you posted it anyway!

This recipe sounds wonderful. Where does one find rose water? Thanks!

That sounds really lovely Anita. And the rose water and rose petal seem so perfect. Terrific ramekins, really love that shape and shallow shape!

Thus is beautiful! And sounds wonderful.

Hi Anita! Crème Brûlée makes such intriguing pictures... and all satiety is filled in the last photo with the spoon gently breaking the surface. Just gorgeous!

Wow - those are gorgeous! And I'll bet they're delicious too!

How gorgeous! I love the flavor combos. The contrast of the red against the creamy dush is just perfect!

I really liked this post, Anita! Very enjoyable to read (esp the section on use of blow torches!)--your writing has such personality. Also, beautiful photography--the tone/color is very nice. : )

I will simply say...mouth there....~grin~...thanks for sharing

those looks really really fantastic and more over i love the way u have explained each and every bit so well from if the custard rises..its overcooked to flame torching it.... i would never have the patience to explain in so much detail.Also love the candied rose petals.Beautiful photography as well .i give u a 10/10 !

Wow, this recipe is awesome. As a French, I sure love crèmes brulées, and the association with rose water must be very tasty !

so beautiful and intriguing! great instructions, too. i applied for a scholarhip with elizabeth falkner, so perhaps if i win (wink wink), we'll have to meet up and dine at citizen cake...

beautiful post, anita!! and great job with the instructions. i applied for a scholarship with elizabeth falkner, so if by chance i win, we'll have to meet for a citizen cake experience!

Wow... just... wow...

Anita, every time I click on the saved link to your blog my heart starts beating fast because I know that it will be anotjher special reading. You have given a lesson in creme brulee making - thank you! I am a fan of CB. Once a very good friend sent me an email to say that she had tried her first CB and had not liked it, not liked the egg tasting dish. I knew straight away that she had been unlucky with the one she bought.As you well put 'done well in the hands of the expert' it is just special. AS for the recipe you used. how wonderful to have grand marnier and rose water. I have not yet tasted any of the unconventional ones - with infusions, so your recipe might become my first attempt.

The picture in this post looks gorgeous!
I like it. :)

A beautiful site -- and what gorgeous photos of your recipes. I've added you to my Typepad people and can't wait to try some of these things.

Anita, I'm a creme brulee addict. As old as it might be, it really is my favourite dessert. I love the way you've adapted it here. The only time I've ever really had rose-infused food was at a local Persian restaurant. What a great way to adapt the flavour.

Awww, thanks! I'm glad I came up with something nice for SHF!

Thanks! I used (and it still happens) get anxious about when my creme brulees were done - decided to write all the factors down!

Thank you! Creme brulee is a magical sort of dessert, isn't it?

It seems rich but I find the taste keeps it from getting too heavy. You can also make them in shallower dishes so you have less!

Thank you! Another secret pyromaniac:) I admit it was a great thrill when I finally got my own home blowtorch!

Edible flowers are a great touch for decorating! Glad you are exercising your creativity in school!

Thank you and thank you for hosting SHF, I was blown away by all the beautiful entries!

Well I wouldn't say easy - but after you do it several times you get better at knowing what to look for! I was looking for fluted dishes but the straight ones are nice too, aren't they?

I was too inspired by the theme not to participate. Thanks!

Thank you! Rosewater can be found in specialty food stores (like Whole Foods) or in Middle Eastern/Indian groceries. You can also get some online.

Thank you! It was a stroke of luck to find the dishes. I do like the shallow depth - you can enjoy the creme brulee but not feel like you're pigging out!

Thank you! I was pleased with how such a simple recipe turned out so nicely!

Thank you! I appreciate your eloquent description of the photos - I did eat up that dish after breaking the crust;)

Thank you! It was delicious - the rosewater infused the cream very nicely!

Thank you! I was lucky to have a cloth in that shade of red to complement the rose petals!

Thank you for such nice compliments - it was fun playing with the blowtorch:)

Thank you! It was a pleasure to make and share, I'm glad you liked it!

Thank you! 10/10? I'm blushing. I've overcooked creme brulee before so wanted to write down how not to make that mistake again!

Foodie Froggy,
I must thank the French for having such a wonderful dessert! I found the rosewater a very nice addition to the flavor!

Thank you! Yes, you must let me know if you get that internship - or if you visit SF!

Thanks!:) Glad you enjoyed it!

Thank you for such a kind compliment! I love creme brulee and wanted to write how special I thought it was. I've added different flavors to the cream but I really like rosewater!

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

Thanks for visiting and for the add! I hope you continue to enjoy the page!

Thank you! One of my other favorite infusions into creme brulee was yuzu at a Japanese fusion restaurant. But the rosewater is one I found I really like!

The creme brulee looks delicious. I'm in search of the ramekins you used. I'm hosting a bridal shower, serving creme brulee, but I have one problem, I have everything square except the smooth edge square ramekins. I'm only able to find the scalloped edge square ones. Do you mind sharing where you purchased them? Thank you so much.

This look amazing. Where can I get rose water?

This looks heavenly!
I love anything with rose! Must try this.

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