Adrienne Jones is a writer, photographer and world-class eater who blogs at A Girl and Her Camera. She loves desserts and has been known to take to a frosting tub with little more than a spoon and a well-tuned sweet tooth. She will report on her latest favorite treat for Gut Check every other Friday.
- User "Jellyfish Juice," Wikimedia Commons
I've had many desserts in my lifetime, and I could regale you with sweets-related memories. Like eating a deep-fried Twinkie for the first time during a street fair in Vegas. Or the time my mom and I made a sweet-potato pie from scratch in the wee hours before Christmas morning, and she accidentally cooked part of the ready-made crust's package into the pie. Or my discovery, just a month ago, of the joys of lemon curd.
But for the first edition of Sweet Scout, I wanted to eat something new. Of course, trying to find a dessert that sounds good but that I've never had is kinda difficult for me. Then I thought of one very
well-known dessert I'd never eaten: crème brûlée.
How is it, you ask, that someone who loves dessert as much as I do hasn't wrapped her wanton lips around something as universally loved as crème brûlée? Honestly, the opportunity has arisen only once, and having been denied the chance to try it then -- the kitchen was closed (d'oh!) -- I became obsessed with the very idea of crème brûlée. What is it? Where can I get it? Is it as high-falutin' as it sounds?
Let's see: The basic formula calls for cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Who in the world could screw up something that simple? Once I decided crème brûlée was easy enough for any chef to conquer, I didn't bother looking up reviews; I visited the first restaurant that Google suggested.
My husband and I sat at the bar of Chez Leon
early one Saturday night, drank tall glasses of ice-cold water and ordered -- much to the bartender's likely dismay -- a single crème brûlée. It arrived with little fanfare: Aside from the triangle-folded cloth napkin that our barkeep used as a place mat and the doily placed under the serving dish, it appeared as straightforward as the recipe I'd seen.
And then we tasted it. Now, it would be unfair of me to say it was like nothing I've had before. Have you made vanilla pudding from scratch? In theory, crème brûlée shouldn't be that different. Yet this was. It was served cool, which I wasn't expecting, but it did have the crisp, caramelized top that I'd been so eager to try. After breaking through that, the underside was creamy, sweet and impossible to stop digging into until it was all gone.
I've been racking my brain trying to figure out why the crème brûlée tasted so special. It's basically pudding. I OD'd on pudding as a kid and then leaned on it heavily as a dieter about fifteen years ago, but I hadn't touched the stuff in years.
Then it hit me: The very snootiness that kept me from seeking out the dessert long ago was what made it special. If someone pulled out a pack of Jell-O vanilla pudding, scooped it into a nice dish, covered the top in sugar, torched it, put it on a doily and served it up, I'd dig right in with nary a raised eyebrow.
And, really, there's nothing wrong with that.