Special Project…

I got a tug on the arm. Fellow teacher and friend Mrs. L dragged me off to the side of the building and said “D just told me to go meet him in the parking lot. You’re coming with. He won’t kill you, he likes you.”

D was one of our students. A student that one may like to say made poor choices. Sadly because he made poor choices he never got placed on the advanced math track, which he should have been. In all my years of teaching math, he was by far the most gifted at it. Everything came naturally to him. Which in a way was good, but in a way was bad. Math was the only subject he liked; he skated by with a D in just about every other class. Not because he couldn’t do it, just because that took effort and he was lazy (yes, I said he was lazy, deal with it). Since math came natural to him, it took no effort.

Though I was amazed by his math talents, he was in every form a huge pain in the butt, and that was in the class he liked. Imagine him in the classes he didn’t like. Part of the problem was that he could finish his classwork/homework in the blink of an eye, and then get bored. He was no good at helping other students as he usually just ended up telling other kids they were stupid. And so I spent my year trying to figure out projects for him. Most of which he didn’t want to do, it’s not like he needed the extra credit. Towards the end of the year we had a hard test. He missed 4 days of school due school suspension and he missed the lesson on how to do a couple of the things. So he got a B. Which was unacceptable to him. And I may have suggested it might bring down his overall grade. Which worked out for me. He loved to blow stuff up and build stuff (probably just to blow that up). I told him that Mrs. L was in need of bookshelves. That if he designed them using some of the math we learned that year and then built them for her, that I would give him extra credit. And though I would see him working on the drawing of them, measuring her room and what not, I never saw any shelves.

That was of course until graduation night when he came up to Mrs. L and told her to meet him in the parking lot, that he “had something for her”. We were both a little nervous but she dragged me with her…safety in numbers. There was D and his father at their truck with what was quite possible the world’s largest bookshelf. Made out of steal…literally. His dad grumbled that this was the most expensive thing they ever spent on school, but that it was worth it because D was out of his hair for almost a month. It took 4 people to get that bookshelf into her room. Mrs. L doesn’t teach there anymore, but she does drag that bookcase around with her everywhere she goes, as it is “the best built shelf I have ever seen…and the f*ing heaviest”.

Sometimes projects are necessary in life. Something to stimulate and challenge you. I personally am so not in a place that I need to be challenged it’s not even funny. So I am still sticking with the fairly simple, with the challenge of still making it Peabody style. This Butterscotch Crème Brulee is a good example. It’s not hard, but the addition of pulverized butterscotch disc candy instead of just sugar for the top definitely makes it a Peabody. I like to do this with candy canes as well at Christmas time on chocolate crème brulee.

In a totally unrelated note: My friend who collapsed at the rink and had a heart attack and stroke, is already back home and is doing well. It is truly amazing what modern medicine can do!!!

Butterscotch Crème Brulee with Butterscotch Candy Top

1 ½ cups heavy cream
6 TBSP dark brown sugar
¼ tsp. salt
6 TBSP water
2 TBSP Demerara sugar
4 large egg yolks
½ tsp. vanilla extract
8 butterscotch candy disc, pulverized in a food processor, the look should resemble sea salt

Preheat oven to 300°F.
Bring cream, brown sugar, and salt just to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
Bring water and Demerara sugar to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and bubbly, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and carefully add cream mixture (mixture will bubble up and steam), whisking until combined.
Whisk together yolks and vanilla in a large bowl, then add hot cream mixture in a stream, whisking. Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a 1-quart glass measure. Skim off any foam with a spoon.
Divide custard among 6 ramekins. Arrange ramekins in a small roasting pan and bake in a hot water bath , uncovered, until custards are set around edges but still tremble slightly in centers, about 40 minutes. Transfer ramekins to a rack with tongs and cool to warm or room temperature. Pots de crème will continue to set as they cool.
Refrigerate for 2 hours.
Sprinkle butterscotch candy on top and using a kitchen torch, melt the candy to form a crisp crust. Let sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.


  1. Hang in there with D!

    MMMM I love anything with butterscotch.

  2. What a truly inspiring story!

  3. sounds so good! I’ve always wanted to try creme brulee.

  4. Wonderful story and oh that creme brulee looks marvelous!

  5. A heart attack AND a stroke! Yikes. That IS a miracle. Yay for him.

    And yay for you for finding a way to inspire D even though he tried to fight his darndest against you. And now you’ve definitely inspired me with this butterscotch creme brulee. Damn.

  6. Great story and love the pic! About the Chocolate Creme Brulee (for the lazy: ) is it at all beer-y? I am a beer aficionado, but I have some non-beer drinking friends who would love a chocolate creme brulee…

  7. Very inspirational indeed! I just came back from parent-teacher interviews for my 13 year old. How timely!

  8. I heart butterscotch!!! Loved the story!

  9. I wish I’d had a math teacher like you when I was younger! I always loved math growing up, and although I wasn’t a troublemaker like D, I wish my teachers had challenged me more.

    I’m so glad to hear your friend is recovering. Modern medicine truly is a wonderful thing. :)

  10. What a great story — what a special kid!

  11. It really irks me when people don’t try in school, and I know they are smart enough to get atleast a 3.5gpa; I have a few friends like that. But that was a good story, can’t believe D made a bok shelf out of metal o.O

    By the way I would totaly want to make this, but I don’t own a blow torch ;-;

  12. It’s kids like these that makes all the effort worthwhile and keeps the passion alive.
    I so so feel it when I read this post today.

  13. Love the way you captured the steam coming off the brulee!

  14. The story you shared was so cute. My brother was like that in school. The kid’s too smart for his own good!

    I’m glad to hear that your friend is doing well.

    Also, crushing candies to top creme brulee is so genius! I love how many creative things you come up with :)

  15. Amazing brulee. Sorry that your kitchen had to suffer for your art – you know, the burnt caramel you mentioned on FB. It looks like it was so worth it though.

    It is the real teachers, those with that sixth sense, that see through the facade to the student that lies beneath and what they can be, and encourages and challenges them. It might seem like tough love at the time but I would bet that 9 out of 10 students would look back and be so thankful for that tough love (their parents too). I hope that D was able to find his passion and run with it.

    I am also so happy to hear that your friend is home and recovering.

  16. Good story Peabody! I’m glad to hear your friend is okay now! :)

  17. What a great post!! An inspiring story, wonderful news that your friend is doing better and a rockin’ recipe (I LOVE creme brulee)!

  18. A fabulous crème brûlée peabody style! Good to know that your friend is back home.



  19. I like to think there is a spark to be found, somewhere somehow. It takes patience and the right eye to light it. So sad teachers frequently are bound by time and regulations.

    I’m easy… just hand me that bowl and I light up!

    Great news on your friend!

  20. Peabody Style! Love the crunched up butterscotch candy idea.

    Cheers to your friend!

    Now, about that creme-brulee, I can help with any leftovers and do the dishes.

  21. Creating treats as you do is every bit as difficult (and inventive) as building shelves. Just in another arena, that’s all.
    This brulee is a killer recipe; I am a butterscotch/caramel freak.
    So pleased your friend is doing well…and I have high hopes for that student. Hang in there with him. He’s worth it.

  22. Sometimes I think the smart kids have it a bit harder in life. Everything comes easily to them in school, so they never learn how to buckle down, sweat, and really work at something. So later in life, if something’s hard, they just give up.

    Lovin’ the creme brulee!

  23. Cheryl Newton says:

    Hey, Peabody,
    Happy Friday. And, I know I’m lame, but I don’t have ramekins. Could I make this in one big dish? Or would foodies come hunt me down?

  24. This has got to be illegal in at least 23 States. Looks OMG good.

  25. and that is exactly why there are teacher that everyone remembers and students too

  26. I’m glad your friend is better!

    I love creme brulee and this looks great. I like that not all of your recipes are super complex/fancy.

  27. My husband adores creme brulee and butterscotch more than any other sweets. If I make this, he will be in hog heaven. THANK YOU.

  28. The world needs more teachers like you! I’m so glad that your friend is doing well.

  29. @cheryl- I don’t really know actually. My guess is yes because I have made a large flan before. The baking time I would have no clue on. Sorry I am tons of help, eh?

  30. Can you substitute the demerara sugar?

  31. @marci-I guess just more brown sugar or sugar in the raw.

  32. oh god, i love your teacher stories!!!!! and i agree with your last post – my favorites are usually the ones that aren’t the “best” students.

    and especially, the potty-mouthed hearts-of-gold kids. *love*

    i wish there were more teachers like you, everywhere~ <3

    i'm also glad your friend is ok :)

    have a great weekend!

  33. What a great story. Thanks for sharing it and this creme brulee with us.

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