Creme Brulee

Creme brulee is one of the quintessential restaurant desserts. You’ll find it in just about any restaurant you go to, yet it still has a reputation that oozes class. It is silky smooth custard covered in caramelized sugar. You can’t get better than that. Sounds hard to make right?

Wrong!

You couldn’t be further from the truth and it is inexpensive to boot! The sad part is most restaurants’ creme brulee ranges from bad to down right inedible. In all of my years of eating dessert I have yet to taste a lusciously creamy (you can’t forget flavorful) creme brulee with the perfect amount of caramelized sugar on top that creates that wonderful *crack* sound when you take the first spoonful.

Once I found this recipe (which I found in a publication of Cooks magazine) I actually stopped eating creme brulee in restaurants because I was tired of paying so much for a dessert that I could make for pennies on the dollar and I knew would be impeccable. The following recipe is actually less than a dollar per serving, and is quite a show stopper. My parents have told me on numerous occasions that I have “spoiled them” and whenever they brave trying creme brulee at a new restaurant, it never compares.

I mean and who doesn’t like playing with a little fire now and again? It’s honestly my favorite part of making this lovely dessert…well besides eating it of course.

*note*

To serve this dessert you will either need a blow torch or to use the broil setting on your oven. I personally don’t trust my oven to do an even job of caramelizing, so I have never tried this method. You can purchase a little torch at most stores that sell kitchen gadgets. However I would recommend purchasing a real blow torch from your local hard ware store. The last time I bought one, the propane canister cost about $5 and the head (the part the flame comes out of) cost around $15, and they last a long time. I have had mine for two years and I use it several times a year and I am maybe a 1/3 of the way the way through the container. Invest in one that self ignites, trust me it will save you time and effort.

Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

4 cups chilled heavy cream.

2/3 cup granulated sugar

pinch salt

1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise

12 large egg yolks

8-12 tsps cane sugar

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Combine 2 cups cream, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan; with paring knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean into pan, submerge pod in cream, and bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to ensure that sugar dissolves. Take pan off heat and let steep 15 minutes to infuse flavors.
  3. Meanwhile, place a kitchen towel in the bottom of a large baking dish or roasting pan and arrange *8-10 4-5 oz ramekins (or shallow fluted dishes) on *towel. Bring a kettle or large saucepan of water to boil over high heat.
  4. After cream has steeped, stir in remaining 2 cups of cream to cool down mixture. Whisk yolks in large bowl until broken up and combined. Whisk about 1 cup cream mixture into yolks until loosened and combined. Add remaining cream and whisk until evenly colored and throughly combined. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a 2-qt measuring cup, or a pitcher (or clean medium bowl); discard solids in strainer. Pour or ladle mixture into ramekins, dividing it evenly among them.
  5. Carefully place baking dish with ramekins on oven rack; pour boiling water into dish, taking care not to splash water into the ramekins, until water reaches 2/3 the height of ramekins. Bake until centers are just *barely set and are no longer sloshy and a digital instant-read thermometer inserted in the centers registers 170-175 degrees, 30 35 minutes (25-30 minutes for shallow fluted dishes). Begin checking temperatures about 5 minutes before recommended time.
  6. *Transfer ramekins to a wire rack to cool to room temperature, about 2 hrs. Set ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hrs or up to 4 days.
  7. Uncover ramekins; if condensation has formed on the custards, place a paper towel on surface to soak up moisture. Sprinkle each with about 1 tsp *cane sugar; tilt and tap ramekins for even coverage. Ignite torch and caramelize the sugar. I recommend (if you can handle it) holding the ramekin at a 45 degree angle and slowly rotating it in your hand while you are caramelizing the sugar. It will help the sugar melt more evenly. If you are afraid to hold the ramekin while you are caramelizing the sugar you can put it on a lazy susan and slowly turn it. If you are using a real blow torch keep the flame approx 8-10in away from the surface.  This will allow you to evenly caramelize the sugar without getting burnt spots. If you are using a little torch keep the flame approx 1-4in away from the surface. I recommend to serve *immediately. However they may be kept refrigerated for up to 30 minutes uncovered.

Variations

Tea infused creme brulee-(you can use any kind of tea you’d like, I prefer chai or green tea)

  • Knot together the strings of 10 tea bags. Follow the recipe above, substituting tea bags for vanilla bean; after steeping, squeeze bags to extract all the liquid. Whisk 1 tsp vanilla extract into yolks in step 4 before adding cream.

Add fresh fruit or a layer of chocolate

  • Follow the recipe above; but before pouring the custard into the ramekins put fresh fruit in the bottom such as raspberries, sliced strawberries, blueberries, or blackberries. Or you could put pieces of chocolate down. I would recommend melting it a bit so they don’t float. Yum!

Tips and Tricks

  1. I say 8-10 because it depends on how full you fill them. I can get 10 portions out of this recipe, however if you are looking for hardier portions just fill 8 ramekins. Try to make the ramekins as level as possible; it will help to prevent spilling and improve the presentation.
  2. I consider it a firm giggle like jello.
  3. I use tongs with rubber bands wrapped around the pinchers.
  4. I think it melts better than beet sugar. I recommend serving immediately because I love eating the two different temperatures. Warm from the caramelizing process and cold from it being recently refrigerated.
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