My favorite kitchen tool is a blowtorch
And not one of those dainty culinary brûlée torches, either, but a Bernzomatic propane torch. I got mine at Home Depot a few years ago, and it cost a whole lot less than the ones you can find in cooking stores — which are tiny and, in my mind, far too tame. Blowtorches are great for making crème brûlée, of course. You can also caramelize sugar on top of pies, cakes and plenty else. In last night's episode of "Iron Chef," won by Providence chef Michael Cimarusti, Providence pastry chef Adrian Vasquez took a torch to some red bell peppers — much more fun to do on television than simply parking them over a boring stove-top flame or under a broiler. You can also provide some last-minute color to a roast or gratin, quickly heat the bottom of a metal bowl to keep a frosting or meringue from breaking, or warm a chilled springform pan for quick release. (I got this trick from Spago pastry chef Sherry Yard, who does this for cheesecakes.)
But what I use my blowtorch for the most is an amazing raspberry brûlée recipe I found in the July 2006 issue of Saveur. It's insanely easy to make, a fantastic way to use seasonal berries (I've also used blackberries, strawberries, even peaches), and the only requirements are blowtorch, fruit, cream and sugar. All you do is fold fresh berries into Chantilly cream, sprinkle with sugar and torch the top. The sugar caramelizes into rivulets and, after a quick set-up in the refrigerator, forms a crunchy sugar top. It's amazing — and a very impressive party trick at twilight grilling dinners. Just be sure to get a fire extinguisher at the hardware store too!
— Amy Scattergood
Photo courtesy of Bernzomatic