Plainclothes Feast

A weekly peek at one dinner table, in the heart of one home, in the center of the country

Creme Brulee 0.0



A few weeks ago, my bathroom scale broke. I tried changing the batteries, but that didn’t help. Frustrated but not surprised, I resigned myself to buying a new one. The scale was almost exactly as old as my youngest child–who still lacks most of his consonant sounds, for Pete’s sake–so there was no reason it ought to give up the ghost just yet…no reason except the fact that it is, generally speaking, a piece of electronic equipment. Given the fact that the capitalist machine hasn’t yet figured out how to render bathroom scales embarrassingly obsolete by introducing a new version every 4-6 months, the only way to insure that we will regularly replace our bathroom scales is by building them not to last. (It’s a conspiracy, man!)

I’d given it up for lost anyway, so I invited my older son, who fancies himself a young engineer, to have a go at it. Up and down the stairs he went, into and out of the garage, procuring different sizes of screwdrivers and clunking around in the lower-floor bathroom until he had thoroughly splayed and dissected the thing, at which point, like a doctor seeking out next of kin, he came into the kitchen and pronounced, “Mommy, it all looks good inside to me. I think it’s just run out of memory, and there’s nothing we can do about that.”

I nodded, seriously, sagely, and considered whether to explain to him that bathroom scales are lower life forms and neither contain nor require memory. Then I said, “Well. Thank you for trying.”

Quietly, he unfolded his fingers from his palm and showed me the pair of AA batteries he had removed. “Maybe,” he said, depositing them in my hand, “you can reuse these.” Then he said, “If I were you, I’d get one that doesn’t need batteries and doesn’t have red numbers. Just the kind with a dial.” (He demonstrated the way a dial works with his index finger.) “Those work better because they have less stuff inside.”

He’s his father’s child in some ways, a Luddite by disposition, innately distrustful of electronic guts, even though, unlike his father, he finds them interesting to muck around in.

For his part, my husband said he thought I should just live without a scale, use my favorite pair of holey blue jeans to keep myself in line, stop fretting over the 1 1/2 pounds with which I grapple relentlessly. Let go of the electronic red numbers entirely. Free myself.

Isn’t that a lovely, old-fashioned notion? He’s so cute…and clueless. Let me tell you why:

I’m almost 40. I have three children, soft curves, a lean husband, and a sweet tooth. Nuff said?

Of course, I ordered a new scale–ironically, the new-and-improved version of my dearly departed one (I call it “scale 2.0”)–from Amazon. Problem solved.

Although I may not be able to commit to a life without electronic bathroom scales, I can’t argue with the concept that the best things have “less stuff inside.” This weekend, I was reminded of another great example of this principle at work. Thus I present to you–without photographic evidence because, by the time I remembered how much we love these, we had eaten every last bite–creme brulee 0.0. Unmessed around with. Unimproved. Unassailable. So technologically bereft that it doesn’t even require a blowtorch.

I’ll add some pictures next time I make it. I’m sure it won’t be long. (Update: photos added. Creme brulee eaten. Again.)

This recipe makes enough custard for his-and-hers servings:

hers & his

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

3 tablespoons white sugar

1 pinch salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 egg yolks

~4 tablespoons turbinado sugar (or white)


My little purple candle lighter makes a mean brulee…

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees, and set your tea kettle on to boil.
  2. Meanwhile, combine cream, 3 tablespoons white sugar and salt in saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring now and then, until it has begun to steam. Do not boil.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  3. In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks and vanilla until smooth. Pour hot cream into yolks, a little at a time, stirring constantly, until all cream is incorporated. Pour mixture into your ramekins.
  4. Place ramekins in a baking dish large enough to accommodate them, and place dish on oven rack. Pour boiling water into dish to halfway up the sides of the ramekins. 
  5. Bake 45 minutes to an hour, until custard is barely set. Keep some jiggle in it.
  6. Before you refrigerate it to set the custard completely, go ahead and brulee your tops. Why not, right? You can use a blowtorch if you’re hardcore. I used my grill-lighter (which was a little slow, but not impossibly so). You can also put your oven rack at the highest level and turn your broiler onto high and then broil them. It’s your call. Whichever method you choose, begin by sprinkling liberally with turbinado sugar, enough to cover the entire surface. If you are using a candle lighter, put your flame directly against the sugar until it melts and crackles into a single big crystal. This took me about 5 minutes per dish. If you put it under the broiler, watch it carefully.
  7. Put your bruleed cremes right into the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours so that they chill and set up a little bit more.


I topped ours with macerated fresh raspberries, but they would have been perfect naked, too. Less is more. There is a good reason creme brulee is always served in a single-serving size. There is something about that custard that seems insubstantial…but it’s an illusion. They are so round tasting. So creamy and smooth and simple and clean and just outright decadent.

I’m glad I bought a new scale, if only so I can remember not to eat these every day.


4 thoughts on “Creme Brulee 0.0

  1. gotta say I agree with your husband… just pay attention to the fit of your clothes, how you feel in general and your energy level. I’ve never owned a scale on principle! And heck… with the amount of sugar you eat already you’re probably not going to be changing much size wise. 🙂

  2. I approve of your principle, but I can’t adopt it. My favorite blue jeans have a nasty habit of lying to me! And, hey, the amount of sugar I eat is one very good reason I might balloon at any moment!

  3. Pingback: Powerfully Pumpkin Bread | Plainclothes Feast

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