Behind the French Menu gives a tasty background to French cuisine, French dishes, how they are made and how they should be served.
Where there is a story behind a dish's creation and
that story may aid the diner's enjoyment then that will also be included. Bon appétit!
Crème Brulée. The History of the dish and the Man Who Created or Re-Created Creme Brulee.
the French Menu
Photograph courtesy of avlxyz
There are many
stories about the creation of Crème Brulée, both modern and ancient. However,
without too many arguments the modern Crème Brulée was created and launched, or
at least was recreated and launched in 1982, by the French-born, and, French-trained chef
Alain Sailhac.The launch took place at
La Cirque, which at the time was the most famous French restaurant in the USA
and Alain Sailhac was the executive chef (1978 – 1986).With so much French input French chefs were
able to accept Crème Brulée as a truly French creation.
trio of crème brulées.
courtesyof Katherine Lynch.
created crème brulée by producing a lighter version of the traditionally
richer, and thicker crusted, Spanish dessert called Crema Catalana. The custard
that he made for the original dish was egg yolks and heavy cream flavored with
vanilla while the thicker Crema Catalana custard was flavored with cinnamon and
Passion fruit Crème Brulée.
Photograph courtesy of Andrea in
caramelized topping on crème brulée is achieved with the aid of a specialized
kitchen blowtorch. Unfortunately you cannot duplicate the topping under a grill at home.It isthat
crispy topping defines a good crème brulée. If I am offered a crème brulée, and
the caramelized topping is perfect, then I mostly consider the rest an
afterthought; however, I have been told that my view is in the minority.
courtesy of Scoro.
Crème Brulée on
Crème Brulée à la Bergamote - Crème Brulée flavored with the bergamot orange; this is the same orange used to flavor Earl Grey tea.
Crème Brulée à la Vanille et au Pain d'Épices – Crème Brulée flavored with vanilla andmade using gingerbread.
spiked with the addition of fresh fruit.
Crème Brûlée au Dulce de Léché - Crème Brulée made with that South American
delight loved by Argentinians’ and others.Dulce de léché is made by slowly heatingand caramelizing sweetened milk.
Crème Brulée au Parmesan et Tomates Séchées – Crème Brulée made with dried tomatoes and
Parmesan cheese;this is a savory Crème
courtesy of Dave Lifson.
Crème Brulée et Fève de Tonka - Crème Brulée flavored with the Tonka bean.
The Tonka bean's origins are South American, andits aroma includes the scents of vanilla,
almonds and cinnamon. The Tonka bean is said to be one of the secret ingredients
in French Pernod, the aniseed flavored French alcoholic drink that took over
from Absinthe when it was banned in France in 1915.
Crème Brûlée à la Vanille Bourbon- Crème
Brulée with its original favoringof
The menu listingabove notes Vanille Bourbon; that maymake you think that you are going to receive
a very special vanilla. However, Vanille
Bourbon a good vanilla, but also the most common vanilla on the market! Some restaurants think that by using a somewhat unknown, but
interesting name, the product may sell
better.Mexico was the source for all
types of vanilla and Bourbon vanilla was the vanilla grown on France’s Indian
Ocean islandof Réunion.Until the French revolution, the island was
called Île Bourbon, then came the French revolution andthe revolutionaries changed the name of the
island from that of their hated Bourbon King to Réunion. Since 1946 Réunion is a
department/region of France, as much a part of France as Provence.
visit Réunion remember that while you are in the Indian Ocean you are also in
France and it is part of the European common market.In Réunion, you will needEuros and may expect Baguettes and croissants
and a French breakfast.
Crème Brulée is
more than just a dessert.
Sailhac’s original launch, the flavor and the custard under the topping have
seen many changes and savory versions of Crème Brulée are served as entrées,
the French starters, or as garnishes for the main course. At the same time probably
50% of French restaurant menus will offer Crème Bruléeas dessert.
Crème Brulée is
also accepted as an American creation.
courtesy of Alan Chan.
origins of Crème Brulee
Alain Sailhac linked the origins of the modern Crème Brulee to the
Catalan dish Crema Catalana. However, I
know that Trinity College, Cambridgealso claim to be the primogenitor of the modern Crème Brulée; they have served a dish called Burnt Cream
or Trinity Cream atthe college since
However, then I heard
from Veronica Shine who has a very interesting blog on the Hispanic
Veronica Shine writes that according to the Confectionery
Guild of Barcelona, the origins of Crema Catalana came from the Jewish
inhabitants of Catalonia. They used the flavors of the Moorish influence in
Spain, flavors from before 1492, that were cinnamon and lemon. The flavors of
today’s Crema Catalonia is also cinnamon and lemon. Crema Catalonia in the meantime
has been declared a national dish and is to be served, every year, on March
19th, St. Joseph’s Day (Spanish equivalent of Father’s Day).
Creme Brulée Macchiato in China.
courtesy of miniQQ
Veronica Shine’s post on the subject of Crema Catalana , click or copy paste:
and others, also pointed me in the direction of the famous French chef Francois
Massialot (1660- 1733).Massialot served
a number of Royal French households and he wrote what would become a
three-volume cookbook written between 1691 and 1733. His book was called Nouveau Cuisinier Roïal et
Bourgeois, The New Chef, Both Royal and Bourgeois.Massialot's books were translated into
Englishand part was published in 1702 as The Court and
Country Cook. I have not read the English translation, but I am told it has the
exact recipe for a dish called burnt cream in English.The exact English translation ofMassialot's
Crème Brulée in
his French version.
To see Francois
Massialot’s book go on-line to the French national library website: the
Biblotech National de France athttp://gallica.bnf.fr.There
under its original title:Le Cuisinier
Roïal et Bourgeois with the landing page address: http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k108571q
You may read on page 213 of Massialot’s book, as I have
done,the original recipe for Crème Brulée.
front page of the original edition of
CuisinierRoïal et Bourgeois
courtesy of theBiblotech National de
You may read a copy of the original book, in French, from the French
National Library site, without payment.Follow their instructions in French, English, Spanish or German.
back in the USA
the creator of the modern Crème Brulée, changed careers in 1986 and in
1997 was named chef of the year by the Maîtres Cuisiniers de
France, the Master Chefs of France. Alain Sailhachad become a teacher and today is the Executive Vice
President and Dean Emeritus at the ICA.
Creme Brulee to you.
courtesy of the sparechangekitchen
many fathers, and mothers; that was abundantly clear from the successful
launch, or if you wish, re-launch of Crème Brulée.