Have you ever had a crème brûlée that was rich, creamy and delicious? Most likely it was prepared in a “bain-marie,” a French term that is also known as a water bath. This method can be used when making egg custard, flourless chocolate cake or even a cheesecake.
Start by placing the dish or pan with the uncooked custard in it into a larger baking pan that has been filled with hot water. Note, when making a cheesecake you’ll want to wrap the spring form pan in foil so that water does not get in. The water should come at least halfway up the side of the dish, but do not allow the water to spill into the food. Carefully place the baking pan into a preheated oven and cook until the dessert is firm but still loose in the center. The temperature of custard should be between 170-175°F and a cheesecake should be between 160-165°F.
The hot water tempers the heat, allowing the food to be gently cooked throughout. Without a water bath, the harsh heat starts cooking the edge of the food first and by the time the center of the dish is cooked, the outer edge is over cooked and can be tough and rubbery.
Here’s how we use a bain-marie: