Coffee Crème Brûlée in a Convection Steam Oven

This is a classic dessert that I swear I’d make in my kitchen – some day. I have the shallow gratin dishes and a kitchen torch that I purchased a while ago just to make the crème brûlée. Somehow I never get around to make it. That some day has arrived. Glad I’ve finally gotten my act together. I made it with the Cook-the-Book-Fridays group this week, when this David Lebovitz’s recipe was featured.

Crème brûlée is much easier to make than I’ve thought. The ingredients list is short. This custardy dessert is similar to making ice cream. Starting with preparing the creme anglaise, which is a mixture of cream and milk (320 and 140 grams or 1 1/3 and 2/3 cup), egg yolks and egg (60 and 45 grams or 6 yolks and 1 egg) and sugar (50 grams or 1/4 cup). The mixture is heated through on the stovetop over medium heat until it thickens (internal temperature reaching 180°F with a thermometer) and then bake in the oven in a hot water bath, or a bain marie. As with any egg dishes, accurate temperature control is crucial for making a custard with just the right texture.

Instead of the conventional vanilla bean to flavor a creme anglaise, David uses instant coffee (1 tablespoon) and Kahlúa (2 teaspoons) to add an intense coffee flavor to the custard. I like a good cup of latte, a coffee break is always a welcome distraction at anytime. So far so good.

My biggest issue is with sugar. Satisfying the sugar fix in a healthful manner is a very different matter. There is no way to avoid sugar entirely when it comes to crème brûlée. I made a partial effort by substituting sugar, that went into the custard mixture, with an equal amount (in grams) of raw honey. To caramelize the custards, I sprinkled the custard tops with turbinado, or raw cane sugar. No one is fooled, only me!

By now you should know that I’m a geek in the kitchen. My most priced possession in the kitchen is a convection steam oven. I use it all the time, sometimes several times a day, to proof dough, bake cakes, reheat breads, roast vegetables, steam fish, cook grains, steam fresh pasta, or dehydrate fruits. I’ll be lost without it. I need to figure out a way to do a bain marie and cook the custards in this oven.

So instead of pouring hot water into the baking sheet, onto which the four custard-filled gratins dishes were loaded, I used the combination convection/steam feature to bake the custards for 20-25 minutes. No water bath is necessary. Just put the tray of custards in the oven. This is the bain-marie-equivalent setting in the oven that seems to have worked in setting the custards:

Convection/steam at 275°F, uncovered on a perforated steam tray, at 60% humidity.

Next, the custards went into the refrigerator for a few hours. They got firmer and were ready to be caramelized with the kitchen blowtorch. With no hot water bath to transfer in and out of the oven and the risk of splashing hot water on the custards or yourself, making crème brûlée can be a cinch.

The steaming/baking step is accomplished with a simple press of a button. What? Is it all heading in the same direction as the driverless car?

Quick tips for a foolproof crème brûlée:

  • Key ratios: 3 egg yolks to 1 cup of heavy cream to 1/8 to 1/4 cup of sugar.
  • Scald the cream and sugar mixture to just below boiling at 180°F. Then steadily whisk into the egg yolks.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes in a hot water bath until the custards are just set and still wobbly when shaken.
  • Chill thoroughly before caramelizing the custards.
  • Use brown sugar (lower melting point) for the caramel top. It browns more predictably when torched.


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  • Reply
    Mardi (eat. live. travel. write.)
    April 21, 2017 at 5:39 am

    Yours look lovely! I’m glad this worked for you but most of us don’t have a convection steam oven LOL! Also, I know the trick about cooking the custards on the stovetop until it reaches a certain temperature and that is perhaps why yours set but David’s recipe doesn’t call for that step… Also he doesn’t call for whole eggs (which would definitely make your custard firmer…), did you add one whole egg as well as the yolks?

    • Reply
      Shirley @ everopensauce
      April 21, 2017 at 10:39 am

      Yes, I did add an extra egg. Felt that the custard was too loose.

  • Reply
    Margrèt Jóhanna
    April 21, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Looks good. I added one extra egg yolk and some more liquid and to me it did not firm up right even after close to an hour in the oven.

  • Reply
    Nicole @ The 2nd 35 Years
    April 21, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    Glad yours worked out ok. I ‘ll have to give your method a try if I ever get a steam convection oven! 😃

    • Reply
      Shirley @ everopensauce
      April 21, 2017 at 8:35 pm

      I did not know there is a countertop combo steam oven for a fraction of the price of a full-feature one. Just found this one by Cuisinart on Amazon. Pretty cool!

  • Reply
    April 22, 2017 at 4:45 am

    Hi Shirley! Great looking results! So now we know that we can steamed them instead of baking, so going to try the steaming method soon!

    • Reply
      Shirley @ everopensauce
      April 23, 2017 at 3:32 pm

      Convection steam has the fan blowing in the oven. Meanwhile the oven only steams up slightly with 60% humidity. Steaming with 100% will create condensation which would affect the texture of the custard. They are different operations. I don’t mean to assume steaming works the same way as convection steam.

  • Reply
    Chez Nana
    April 22, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Your creme brûlée looks perfect and I love the new web site.

    • Reply
      Shirley @ everopensauce
      April 23, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      Thank you for liking the new site.

  • Reply
    Katie from ProfWhoCooks
    April 23, 2017 at 10:52 am

    You know, as I was making this recipe I was wondering why he doesn’t have us do the whole cooking the custard on the stovetop thing to thicken it up. And oh how my father would be so jealous of your steam oven, but I think he wants it for bread. 🙂 Sounds awesome and love your sugar substitutes! Like the new website home as well!

    • Reply
      Shirley @ everopensauce
      April 23, 2017 at 3:37 pm

      I bake crusty bread in a different oven. The temperature of the convection steam oven does not go high enough, at least not with mine. Thanks for visiting and liking my new home.

  • Reply
    April 25, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    Nice redesign, Shirley! And thanks for the tips for reducing the white sugar. Your creme brulees look perfect. I’d never heard of a convection steam oven. Is it built into your kitchen or is a countertop appliance like a microwave?

    • Reply
      Shirley @ everopensauce
      April 25, 2017 at 9:38 pm

      Reducing sugar has no ill effect on the taste. I like that the crème brûlée is not overly sweet. My convection steam oven is built in like a wall oven. You can use it like a regular oven. The beauty is the option that allows me to add humidity to any setting. I’ve also found a Cuisinart countertop version a few days ago. I don’t know how good they are. I only know I can’t do without my Miele combo steam oven.

    We're open to your comments and suggestions!