The Story of Sugar

If you asked an economist if free trade was a good idea, he would probably say yes. He might even give you a look, to make you feel slightly embarrassed for asking such a dumb question.

If you asked an economist why free trade was a good idea, he would probably say that it increases world prosperity and peace.

And if you were really in a mood to learn you’d then ask the economist how free trade increases world prosperity and peace, and he would tell you a little story.

Joe can make five pizzas or ten sandwiches in an hour. Jill can make eight pizzas or fifteen sandwiches in an hour. If Joe does what he’s best at, and Jill does what she’s best at, then in one hour there would be a total of ten sandwiches by Joe and eight pizzas by Jill. Which is more than what they would have produced if they each produced both goods.

So since both Joe and Jill can enjoy to a greater quantity of goods, both have increased their wealth. As for the promise of peace, since they now have to depend on each other in order to acquire the good they’ve ceased to produce, both are less likely to pick a fight.

Seems solid, right? Those guys at New Hampshire and sure thought so. In fact, they loved it so much that they had to tell the whole world about it at Uruguay.

But hey, what if Joe never learned to make pizzas?

On paper all’s still well and good, we still get Joe to make the ten sandwiches and Jill to make the eight pizzas. No biggie, right?

But you see, Jill’s smart and she knows that Joe can’t make pizzas. So what does Jill do? She keeps on increasing the price of her pizzas, ain’t nothing Joe can do to stop that. Okay, now an angry Joe starts to increase the price of his sandwiches too, both so he can continue to buy Jill’s pizzas and maybe a little out of spite too. And here’s the trippy bit: Jill’s actually pretty good at making sandwiches herself, so she doesn’t have to take Joe’s marked up sammies.

So poor Joe, with all his extra sandwiches that will soon go bad, has no choice but to lower his price to what they were originally or even lower in order for Jill to want to buy again. As for the pizzas? They’re still expensive as parmigiano reggiano.

In fact, Joe might be better off not trading in the first place – at least it would have made him learn his pizza skills.

Now, what’s Joe and Jill have to do with sugar you ask?

Well, let me ask you this: what if Jill had factories and farms but Joe only had plantations?

“Bad, bad,” says the buyer.

But when he goes his way, then

he boasts.

Proverbs 20:14

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Cardamom and Cinnamon Infused Creme Brulée

Some people use whole eggs for their creme brulee, but as far as I’m concerned, creme brulee is all about that khhhrehme, and egg whites get in the way of that and degrade what’s supposed to be an euphoric experience clinging to the corner of your lips to a weird jiggly flan. So I use only yolks, eight of them. The result? A creme brulee of which Amélie would approve.

Cardamom Creme Brulée:

  • 2 generous c heavy cream
  • 1 generous c milk
  • 1/4 tsp each ground black cardamom and cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/4 c sugar
  1. Combine the cream, milk, spices, and vanilla in a saucepan and bring almost to a simmer (the surface should start to froth), stirring occasionally. Do not let the mixture boil.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until the sugar has fully dissolved and the mixture is pale.
  3. While whisking so your yolks don’t scramble, slowly pour the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks until smooth.
  4. Strain the mixture into a large beaked measuring glass and pour into six ramekins.
  5. Use a blow torch to torch away the bubbles at the top and set in a water bath.
  6. Bake at 300 degrees F for 50-60 minutes, or until the edges are set. Don’t worry if they still look pretty fluid in the middle. (Without egg whites these have very little protein to set them while they’re still hot, but there is a bunch of butterfat in them which will set as they chill.)
  7. Chill overnight, uncovered in the fridge or until set.

Notes on brulée-ing:

Fact #1: You SHOULD NOT brulée it right before you serve. 

This is counter-intuitive, I know. But there are three reasons for this. One, if you’re afraid that the sugar crust will melt, it won’t as long as you don’t cover your creme brulées with plastic wrap – the fridge will keep the surface nice and dry which keeps your sugar crust robust for a good three hours or so. Two, the heat of your blow torch actually effects not just the sugar on top but also the custard underneath. Since your custard’s texture is largely due to the firmness of the butterfat from chilling, it can actually start to melt as you torch it. Therefore it’s a good idea to re-chill the custard after the torching to bring it back to that super thick and creamy consistency. Three, you don’t want your guests to be waiting around for their creme brulée, pure and simple.

Fact #2: There’s ALOT of white sugar involved.

Yup, there’s actually more sugar in the crust than the custard. You’ll need 1 tbsp for each sugar crust, and there’s only 4 tbsp of sugar in all six custards. Do the math. Also, do take care to sprinkle it on evenly.

Fact #3: You DO need a blow torch.

In case you didn’t read the recipe, you needed it for getting rid of the bubbles at the top already. Also, it gives you much better control over the sugar crust. And um…it’s kind of badass, at least I think so. Hold it at a 45 degree angle with the flame 2-inches away from the sugar. Wave back and forth repeatedly while rotating your custard and your should be good as…golden brown?

And again, don’t forget to re-chill after torching!

Enjoy, and let me know how things go!!

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