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Homemade Crème Brûlée. [video]

Ingredients

- 4 cups heavy cream
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar, ½ cup in mixture and ½ cup for crust.

1. Heat heavy cream and vanilla extract in a sauce pan until hot, but not boiling.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks and ½ cup of sugar until well mixed. Pour in the hot cream gradually, mixing continually.

3. Place 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins into a large roasting pan. Pour hot water into the pan to come roughly halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

4. Pour the egg mixture into the ramekins and bake at 325˚F / 165˚C for 45 - 50 minutes. The crème brûlée should be set, but still a little jiggly in the middle. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan, allow to cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

5. Remove the crème brûlée from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before browning the sugar on top. Spread a tablespoon of sugar on top of each crème brûlée. Using a torch, melt the sugar to for a crispy top. If you don’t have a torch, you can broil the crème brûlée to melt the sugar. Keep an eye on it, to make sure you don’t over cook it. Allow the crème brûlée to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving. 

[Tasty]

Why wildfires are necessary

Did you know that several forest species need fire to survive?

In the conifer-rich forests of western North America, lodgepole pines constantly seek the sun. Their seeds prefer to grow on open, sunny ground, which pits saplings against each other as each tries to get more light by growing straighter and faster than its neighbors. Over time, generations of slender, lofty lodgepoles form an umbrella-like canopy that shades the forest floor below. But as the trees’ pine cones mature to release their twirling seeds, this signals a problem for the lodgepole’s future: very few of these seeds will germinate in the cool, sunless shade created by their towering parents.

These trees have adapted to this problem by growing two types of cones. There are the regular annual cones that release seeds spontaneously:

And another type called serotinous cones, which need an environmental trigger to free their seeds:

Serotinous cones are produced in thousands and are like waterproof time capsules sealed with resinous pitch. Many are able to stay undamaged on the tree for decades. Cones that fall to the ground can be viable for several years as well. But when temperatures get high enough, the cones pop open.

Once it’s gotten started, a coniferous forest fire typically spreads something like this: flames ravage the thick understory provided by species like Douglas Fir, a shade-tolerant tree that’s able to thrive under the canopy of lodgepole pines. The fire uses these smaller trees as a stepladder to reach the higher canopy of old lodgepole pines. That ignites a tremendous crown fire, reaching temperatures of up to 2400 degrees Fahrenheit. At those temperatures, the serotinous cones burst open, releasing millions of seeds which are carried by the hot air to form new forests. After the fire, carbon rich soils and an open, sunlit landscape help lodgepole seeds germinate quickly and sprout in abundance. From the death of the old forest comes the birth of the new.

So however counterintuitive it may seem, wildfires are important for the wider ecosystem as a whole. Without wildfires to rejuvenate trees, key forest species would disappear—and so would the many creatures that depend on them. And if a fire-dependent forest goes too long without burning, that raises the risk of a catastrophic blaze which could destroy a forest completely, not to mention people’s homes and lives. That’s why forest rangers sometimes intentionally start controlled burns—to reduce fuels in order to keep the more dangerous wildfires at bay.  

From the TED-Ed Lesson Why wildfires are necessary - Jim Schulz

Animation by @provinciastudio