Taste Test: Creme brulee

When creme brulee desserts started showing up in grocery store freezers and refrigerators, Taster's Choice judges figured it was too good to be true. They were right. The tasters, one a self-proclaimed "creme brulee snob," were dissatisfied with all three choices recently sampled. The French dessert, literally named "burnt cream," is usually prepared with vanilla custard topped with a layer of hard caramel or sugar. The sugar is hardened by a kitchen blowtorch. The best part of the creme brulees sampled by Taster's Choice were the cute ramekins that came with two of the French desserts.

Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent
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Product/Score (out of 100) Archer Farms /51 Dhul/29 Sweetbay's On-the-Go- Bistro/21
How'd it look? Pretty, company ready! More like vanilla pudding than creme brulee with large specs of vanilla bean. Like an egg custard.
Judges' comments "This looks great and has a good balance of sugar and vanilla flavor. The custard is smooth and silky and the sugar is very coarse," said one panelist. Another compared the sugar crystals to sesame seeds. The chef judge who makes creme brulee as a specialty dish said the Archer Farms version would perhaps pass for homemade if she used her own sugar on top. A couple of judges tasted nutmeg in the custard. All of them liked the terra cotta (soufflelike) pottery ramekins that came with the frozen dessert. This dessert was refrigerated at the store, rather than frozen. It also came in a disposable ramekin. The custard was more like an egg pudding and overly flavored with nutmeg. One judge described the color as "off yellow." Another panelist said the topping was more chewy than crunchy. One compared the taste to Coppertone suntan lotion. The pottery ramekin was great and very similar to the one from Archer Farms. The custard was too runny for most of the judges but it had the best flavor of all the samples. Judges liked the strong vanilla sweetness of the dessert. The problem was the sugar — it didn't hold up. Instead of staying crisp, the sugar did not set. It seemed watery and took away from the delicious cream underneath.
Would they buy? Three of the four judges said yes and one said maybe. All four said no. All four said no.
Shopping information Widely available. $5.94 for two 8.8-ounce ramekins from Target. Widely available. $1.63 for a 5.4-ounce serving at Wal-Mart. Widely available. $5.99 for two 8-ounce ramekins from Sweetbay.
Panelists: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian with Pinellas County Cooperative Extension; Jim Yockey, aesthetician at Anu You Institute; Rhonda Sanderford of Yes-Homes, Smith & Associates Real Estate; and personal chef Kay Studer. All foods were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or e-mail them to jkeeler@sptimes.com. Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to food.tampabay.com.

Taste Test: Creme brulee 10/28/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 28, 2008 4:30am]

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