What's wrong with this recipe?
April 4, 2015 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Last night, I attempted to make creme brulee tarts using this recipe. But something didn't work. Did I do something wrong?

I followed the recipe to the letter, with the one exception that I used half-and-half instead of whole milk, because I wanted a little more creamy texture and I'm used to making 'real' creme brulee in ramekins using heavy cream.

The recipe says it makes 12 servings, but I only got 6 out of it. I cooked these for the 14 minutes recommended, then added 2, and subsequently 5 more minutes of baking time after finding the filling to be still very 'liquidy'. After 21 total minutes I was worried about burning the crusts so I took them out, let them cool on the stovetop for a few minutes, and put them in the fridge overnight. This morning, they're still quite runny. Interestingly, where I spilled some of the filling in the process of putting the muffin pan in the fridge, the spilled portion (that had dribbled out onto the flat top part of the muffin pan) actually had close to the thickened, creamy texture I was going for.

Was it the switch to half and half that caused them to be runny? I'm also curious about the use of the entire egg, where I've always made my creme brulee with only the yolks. Being that I only filled 6 shells, did I fill them far too full? I filled each up up to just below the top, and they looked very similar to the pre-baking image on that page, except it appears my muffin tins are a bit larger than that.

Any advice I can use to re-try these today? Thanks!
posted by SquidLips to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Forgot to mention: In case it matters, I used a silicone muffin mold instead of the normal metal pan. Might explain the size difference but would it have an effect on the actual baking of the filling?
posted by SquidLips at 8:02 AM on April 4, 2015

It looks like the recipe your recipe is based on calls for 2 egg yolks + 1 egg instead of 2 eggs.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:10 AM on April 4, 2015

Did you use confectioners (powdered) sugar? The cornstarch in the confectioners sugar may provide some extra thickening power that keeps the filling together.
posted by scalespace at 8:15 AM on April 4, 2015

I've never seen a creme brulee recipe that uses egg whites at all, and my go-to recipe requires more like 45 minutes of cooking (in a covered bain marie, admittedly). No way is 14 going to be long enough to set the custard to even thick-creamy state, let alone what looks like basically a sweet quiche texture from the photos. Poorly written recipe, is my guess.

I'd suggest trying again, using only yolks, no whites.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:23 AM on April 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

i think muffin pan sizes do vary some; yours could have been bigger. And while you say the pictures show that your pan was filled about the same depth as the original recipe, if you filled only 6 of yours, while the original filled 12, yours would have been filled twice as deep and needed that much more time in the oven to set. I don't think it was the half and half. And more egg white would actually add more of a stabilizing effect, not less. I think these little tarts are supposed to be quite shallow and yours may have been too deep.
posted by primate moon at 8:26 AM on April 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I agree, I bet your muffin pan is a large muffin pan rather than a regular one. A muffin cup in a regular muffin tin holds about a 1/4 of liquid. So considering 2 large eggs is about 6 tablespoons, plus 1 1/4 cups of half and half, plus the sugar and leaving room for the pie crust, you should have had enough liquid to fill them all.
posted by cecic at 8:43 AM on April 4, 2015

Yes, if you got 6 instead of 12, that would tell you that you might need to increase the baking time by quite a bit, and maybe decrease oven temp a bit to prevent burning before they are cooked through. The baking time does seem short in the recipe, and the 400-degree oven also seems rather hot, so maybe that was meant to even out? Kind of weird recipe, IMO.

Egg whites aren't usually in a custard, but it's more a texture thing than anything else (more protein vs. fat increases the omelette-like factor). It wasn't the half-and-half.
posted by zennie at 8:45 AM on April 4, 2015

Based on my admittedly limited experiences making custard/creme brulee, I think the problems are:

1. not enough yolk/too much egg white
2. I've always cooked the custard on the stovetop first so that it's thickened before putting it into the ramekin.
3. It may need to cook in the oven a bit longer than 14 minutes, although since it's a mini portion compared to a normal serving, if you do #2 that may be enough for it to set properly. I'd just watch it like a hawk but be prepared to bake for 20 mins.

Check out these recipes and you can see the difference in preparation method and ingredients. Alton Brown. Allrecipes. I think if you halved either of those recipes and started on the stovetop then you'd end up with about the right amount of custard with the right consistency for your minis (which sound wonderful in theory!).

For what it's worth, this is exactly why I am always VERY wary of baking recipes on blogs I'm not already very familiar with. I always pull a recipe or two from a website I trust to make sure the general ingredient ratio or directions don't look completely out of whack compared to generally accepted, tried-and-true recipes. I mostly use blogs like that for inspiration.
posted by gatorae at 8:50 AM on April 4, 2015

The few times I've made crème brulee, the recipes called for scalding the cream and then mixing the hot cream with the eggs. If the mixture is already warm when it goes into the oven, it will take less time to thicken.
posted by wryly at 8:58 AM on April 4, 2015

Looking at the pictures in the recipe, the heights of the baked tarts, the picture of the baking pan in the recipe itself, and your only getting 6 instead of 12 tarts, all indicate that the recipe author used a shallow muffin pan or muffin top pan, perhaps a tart pan.

I've successfully made crème brûlée and flans before using whole eggs, not just egg yolks. As some others have suggested above, I think it's the muffin mold you used, not the recipe substitutions, that led to your results.
posted by needled at 9:33 AM on April 4, 2015

I know nothing about creme brulee, but I have had problems when using my silicone muffin pan. Things definitely don't brown up or get crisp in silicone. When I've made individual mac & cheese cups in a silicone muffin pan, they come out noticeably runnier than in my metal pans. Here's a discussion on Chowhound on the subject.
posted by kittydelsol at 10:06 AM on April 4, 2015

Thanks all for the tips!

I tried another batch using three egg yolks, and a regular metal muffin pan. Per the above suggestions as well as my wife's, I also made them a little shallower, and sure enough I got 12 tarts' worth. I used paper muffin cups too, and got much better results that time, though they were still not quite thick enough for my taste.

Since I'm experimenting, I just whipped up another batch, but this time I went the more traditional brulee route and cooked up the cream, vanilla, and sugar to a boil and then let it rest for a while before (slowly) adding to the egg yolks, instead of putting in the whole concoction cold. I just took them out of the oven (20 minutes cook time) and they look much better consistency-wise. Extra bonus from all the experimenting: The house now smells like vanilla!

Thanks all!
posted by SquidLips at 8:42 PM on April 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

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