If you’re looking for the one tool in the kitchen that will make you look really professional, I’d choose a cook’s torch. There is something so cool about directing a super-hot flame on sugar-crusted foods to create gorgeous browning. And along with great looks, the browning caused by torching food adds delicious flavor as well.
One thing to remember is that the flame of a torch can get much hotter than a grill or broiler. When using a torch, be sure to use a sweeping motion where the flame goes slowly back and forth across the surface to evenly “scorch” the food. Don’t concentrate too long on one area, or the food may burn. The point is browning, not burning.
There are so many uses for a cook’s torch in your kitchen. Here are some of our favorites:
- Use it to “brulée” the sugar on a crème brulée or pastry. Sprinkle an even layer of sugar on the top of a dessert. Work the torch back and forth to melt the sugar until it melts and turns pale amber. It will set in a glossy, crisp crust.
- Brown the breadcrumbs on mac and cheese if you don’t have time to make it in the oven.
- Roasting peppers is easier with a culinary torch than in a broiler or on the stovetop because you can direct the flame with more precision.
- Place a pepper on an aluminum foil-lined sheet pan. Work the flame back and forth over the pepper until the skin blackens and blisters. Use tongs to turn the pepper to reach the other sides, working the torch over the surface of the skin until all of it is blackened.
Place the pepper in a bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap so that the pepper can steam in its own heat. After 10 to 15 minutes, uncover the bowl and remove the pepper. Use a paper towel to rub off the blackened skin. Cut away the stem and scrape the seeds off the inside.
- A culinary torch will caramelize the peaks of the meringue topping on lemon meringue pie or baked Alaska to a beautiful golden brown. When you’ve topped your dessert with the meringue, move the flame of a culinary torch lightly over the topping until it is lightly browned.
- For an elegant way to serve grapefruit at breakfast or brunch, cut a grapefruit in half and sprinkle it lightly with brown sugar. Use the torch to broil the surface of the grapefruit, melting and caramelizing the sugar.
- French onion soup is not complete without a gooey layer of cheese-covered bread. A torch can melt and crisp the cheese much than putting soup bowls into the broiler. Ladle soup into bowls, float a toasted piece of bread on top, and drape a slice of cheese over the whole bowl. Use the torch to melt and brown the cheese on top, just before serving.
Shortcut Lemon Meringue Pie
1 store-bought pie crust
For the filling:
- 16 ounces ready-to-use lemon cream*
- ½ cup coconut milk or almond milk
For the meringue:
- 4 egg whites
- 1 pinch cream of tartar
- 8 tablespoons sugar
*available at The Peppermill
Line the pie crust with parchment or foil. Fill with pie weights or dry beans. Bake 15 minutes and carefully remove parchment with weights. Weights or beans will be extremely hot. Bake 10 minutes longer until crust is golden. Remove from oven and cool.
Mix together lemon filling and coconut milk until well combined. Spoon filling into cooled crust.
Place egg whites and cream of tartar in your mixer bowl. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form and then gradually add sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form, approximately 1 to 2 minutes.
Spread the meringue over the lemon filling, making sure meringue completely covers filling and that it goes right up to the edge of the crust. Use your spatula to form decorative swirls in the meringue.
Use a torch to gently brown the meringue. Serve immediately or refrigerate overnight.
Many ingredients are prone to infestation. Please consult a local Rav for specific guidelines on how to avoid transgressions related to insects.
Readers may submit questions to the Culinary Connoisseur, c/o Hamodia, 207 Foster Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11230 or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. This weekly column has been brought to you by The Peppermill, the world’s first kosher kitchenware store, located at 5015 16th Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. (718) 871-4022. You can also read a selection of previous columns in their comprehensive cookbook, The Culinary Connoisseur, available now at your local Judaica and kitchenware stores. Jam-packed with delicious recipes, insightful food information and helpful cooking tips, this book is certain to become your constant companion in the kitchen.