Let’s paint a picture: You are in a nice restaurant, provided the dessert menu, and you are likely to find Creme Brulee. Silky smooth creme with a caramelized sugar top. How the heck do they do it? One day at the office I was challenged to make a Creme Brulee because of the “difficulty factor”. I promise you, my friends, there is nothing difficult about this dessert.
Creme Brulee has been my go to dessert recipe when entertaining. It provides an interactive feature to the dinner party (everyone gets to use the kitchen torch on their own dessert) and I can make it ahead of time. I am not talking just the night before either, these little guys last up to 3 days in the refrigerator in my experience. Take them out, put sugar on top, and pass the torch because it is time for you to impress your guests and indulge.
Making this recipe over the years I have learned a few vital tips for the success of your dish: 1) Never leave the heavy cream unattended while on the stove (I was preparing some other recipe and it boiled over. Womp womp) 2) Accidentally splashing the water from the water bath into a ramekin is a recipe for having the creme not set up properly 3) Investigate your kitchen torch options (although there are other ways to brulee the top such as the broiler in your oven) keeping in mind that standard home torches are not meant to be passed around a table of 6 or more one after another and may require a brief intermission while the unit cools down halfway through. 4) Vanilla sugar is regular sugar that has been marinating in 1-2 vanilla beans for about a week. You can make life a bit easier by purchasing vanilla sugar on Amazon.
Let’s get started:
Total Time: 3 hr 30 min
Prep: 15 min
Inactive: 2 hr 15 min
Cook: 1 hr
Yields: 6 standard sized ramekins
1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 cup vanilla sugar, divided
6 large egg yolks
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
1) Grab a small saucepan and add the quart of heavy cream
2) Take one vanilla bean lengthwise, cut it down the center from tip to bottom, this will split the bean in half. Next, use the back of your knife and scrape the vanilla beans out. Add the vanilla beans and the bean shell to the heavy cream. Turn the burner onto medium. For a visual visit this great YouTube Video.
3) Stir the mixture every so often – we are trying to get the heavy cream to come to a boil. **Careful as once the heavy cream boils, it will overcome the pot with large bubbles eventually spilling out over the stove, watch the mixture closely**
4) When the heavy cream has come to a boil remove immediately from heat and cover with a tight fitting lid for 15 minutes.
5) While it is resting, add the 6 egg yolks to the bowl and whisk briefly to break them up.
6) After 15 minutes of resting for the heavy cream, remove the vanilla bean shells and discard. Add half a cup of vanilla sugar to the egg yolks. Whisk together until they become light in color and the sugar has mixed with the yolks (1-2 minutes).
7) Place a pot of water on the stove to boil (this is for your water bath)
8) Temper the eggs by adding a small amount of heavy cream to the egg yolk mixture at a time while whisking. Tempering is important because if you add the hot liquid to the yolks you will end up with scrambled eggs. We want to introduce the heavy cream almost in a steady small stream after a minute of whisking the tempered eggs to slowly incorporate the heavy cream.
9) Take a roasting pan, high sided cake pan, or anything that resembles either. Pour about an inch of the boiling water into the pan. A water bath is important because it provides moisture to the oven to prevent cracking and becoming rubbery as well as ensuring a steady heat and even cooking.
10) Place each ramekin in the water bath CAREFULLY. Water + the cream mixture = no setting up of the custard. The ramekins should have the water come up halfway and should not touch. Fill a vessel with a spout and pour your creme mixture into each ramekin. If you dribble on the sides just wipe with a dry towel.
11) Grab your oven mitts and move the water bath into the oven and cook for 45-50 minutes. The creme should wiggle a bit when you move them in the center but be set up.
12) Place the ramekins into the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
13) When ready to eat, remove from refrigerator, use remaining vanilla sugar to coat a thin but even coating of sugar on the top (if you tilt the ramekin the excess will fall off that you won’t need. Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugars – it is important to allow the sugar to cool for at least 3 minutes so that you do not get burnt, patience is a virtue!
To see this recipe in action and see the master who I learned and adapted this recipe from check out Alton Brown and his Creme Brulee Video.