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Playing with fire for delicious flavour
Flambéing not only looks impressive, but also gives desserts, meat and drinks an elegant final touch. To avoid any mishaps there are a few things to consider.
Flambé is French for “burn” or “flame” and accurately describes this culinary method. To flambé is to cover something with alcohol and then set it alight. The only trace of the alcohol that remains is its delicious flavour. Flambéing without alcohol is not possible. For an impressive fire show, you can caramelise sugar using a small blow torch, for example for crème brûlée, or drizzle a sugar cube with alcohol and light it.
Flambéing does not require a special pan, although regular Teflon coating is unsuitable and the handle must be fire proof. However, for occasional flambéing, a special flambé pan is not necessary.
In theory you can flambé almost anything – even drinks. Burnt punch or Sambuca are examples of drinks that are flambéed. Food that is most commonly flambéed includes meat like beef fillet or game and desserts. Crepe Suzette is typically flambéed, along with caramelised fruit – pineapple, bananas and plums develop a particularly wonderful aroma.
The alcohol must contain at least 40% alcohol to be able to light it – whisky, rum, cognac, brandy, gin, cherry brandy or apple brandy are all suitable and lend a refined aroma. If you prefer to use fruit liqueurs for flambéing desserts, they will need to be mixed with something high in alcohol content.
Flambéing is the last step to finish off a meal. First you must prepare your meal as you usually would and have the necessary equipment at the ready.
For flambéing to be successful, the alcohol can’t be too cold. You can heat it a little in a saucepan before using it for flambéing, but be careful not to let it come to the boil. A shot glass is more than enough – too much alcohol can cause the flavour to become overpowering and the flame too big. Add the alcohol to the pan using a ladle and light it using a long match, either in the pan or in the ladle. Once all the alcohol has been burnt, the flame will go out and the meal is ready to be served.
Generally you should be careful when flambéing, particularly if you have never done it before. Don’t attempt to put on a big show for your guests, rather try it in peace and alone. With a little more experience, the whole process becomes easier and safer. However, even if you are a flambéing expert, the technique should be avoided around children.
A small kitchen can make flambéing difficult. There should be enough space between the stove top and the extractor hood, any hanging shelves or any other flammable kitchen utensils. The bottle of alcohol should not be left open next to the stove. You will also need a fire-proof base, like a glass plate or oven tray, and a fitting lid. A fire blanket for any emergencies is not a bad idea either.
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