When I was a kid vanilla meant cheap, bland sweet things without other “proper” flavours in. How wrong can you be?
A few weeks ago in France I had the most exquisite culinary experience in the form of a creme brulee made in heaven, well it tasted like it was, pure ambrosia. Here is the original

These are my first attempts at replication. They were by most standards superb and look very like the photos from the recipe I used. They were sadly not up there with the perfect brulee living in my memory. The bone spoons are perfect.

What was better about the French one? Well mine was a great custard but it didn’t have the same variety of texture as the original, it was all the same where the French one had some almost runny custard and some more set, the topping too was a lovely mix of crunchy, brittle and hard where mine was pretty much a thin sheet of toffee. Texture aside the flavour of mine was not as powerful or fragrant as the original. The recipe used a whole vanilla pod which cost me £2.50 in the supermarket. So next try will involve more vanilla, I  found the wonderful vanilla mart online where vanilla heads can satisfy their every whim and cheap too, 20 pods for £5.50 delivered. So next batch will have two pods in and maybe steeped for longer in the cream until it’s oozing vanilla, I shall get some nice demerara sugar for the top and steep that with another vanilla pod to make vanilla sugar. I am not sure if the wider ramekins help the French version when I have my recipe sorted I would love to find a potter making nice ramekins. I’ll keep you posted and in the meantime if anyone else makes great brulees or has any other fantastic recipes to share let me know.

8 Responses to vanilla

  1. Auxonic July 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    I've made a lot of creme brulee over the years (for a home cook… nothing commercial) and the best recipe I've ever followed is this one.I also make my own vanilla extract by soaking pods in vodka and dark rum for months on end…along with freshly extracted seeds.Good luck!

  2. White Knight July 11, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    Hi RobinThat sounds great.Unfortunately I'm still not allowed cream, but if I was…Maybe try this guy re your ramekins… Stephen Walker

  3. Robin Wood July 11, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

    Thanks for the recipe link Auxonic, Stephen I know Jim well, in fact two blog posts back you'll see we worked together in Kent, he doesn't do ramekins. I know many folk that would make them to order but I like to find folk that are making things I like and buy ones they have made, I find the whole commissioning process difficult from both sides.

  4. Unknown July 12, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    Muchelney Pottery make nice ramekins, but still a taller and narrower than your French one. French supermarkets sell those shallow ones, perhaps another trip is needed?For extra flavour try adding a tsp of Vanilla Extract (extract, not essense) Nielsen-Massey make a nice one – brown bottle, cream label.

  5. E July 13, 2012 at 2:27 am #

    As a craftsperson do you wonder how much labor goes into 20 vanilla pods? And how it's possible to grow, pick, process, package, advertise and ship them so cheaply?

  6. Robin Wood July 13, 2012 at 7:04 am #

    Hmmm yes I always think that about stuff made abroad and sold cheap though I don't expect there will be any difference in local pay between the 20 for £5.50 vanilla mart pods and the 1 for £2.50 supermarket pod. I expect the difference is mainly down to the cost of holding a glass bottle on the supermarket shelf. I ought to look into fair trade vanilla and would be interested if anyone can point me in that direction. Interesting stuff about vanilla here

  7. E July 15, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    I found this info on fair trae vanilla: didn't find any local to you source!