I love crème brûlée. I love making it. I love eating it. I love tapping my spoon against the glass-like ceiling of burnt sugar, and breaking into the voluptuous, vanilla-scented custard below. Are you drooling yet? Here’s the easy recipe:
Then split a vanilla pod, and scrape out its delicious black seeds. Throw the pod and seeds into the cream, and bring to the barest simmer over a medium flame. Remove from heat, and let steep for 10-15 minutes.
Note: No vanilla pod in your pantry? Substitute 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract.
Bake on the lower-middle rack of a preheated 325°F oven until the the custard is set — the center should just shiver when shaken — 45-55 minutes. In my gas oven, the custard, whether baked in individual ramekins or a large casserole dish, requires exactly 55 minutes to set.
Let cool for 30 minutes. Then cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, or for up to 3 days.
And here comes the fun part!
To achieve the “brûlée” of crème brûlée, you’ll need to burn the sugar topping. And for this you’ll need a culinary torch.
And this brings us to my sordid “Tale of Three Torches:”
While preparing this recipe for you, my 10-year-old burner (the black subject pictured on the left) bit the dust. So I ran to the local hardware store, and purchased their smallest torch (which wasn’t small at all) for $20.50. It was a pain to ignite. Also, it was too bulky and thus too dangerous to use while taking photographs. Consequently I drove to a poorly-stocked kitchen-supply store in Chatham, NY, and obtained, for $30.00, the little red model you see pictured on the right.
Tip: To save time, money, and heartache, just order a culinary torch from an online source, such as Amazon.
You can refrigerate the dessert(s) for at least 2 hours before serving. But if you wait too long, the top will soften. Not to worry — you can always add a little more sugar, and re-burn the top.
Is Crème Brûlée one of your favorite desserts, too? You can let me know by leaving a comment.
Here’s a printer-friendly, copy-and-paste version of the above:
Crème Brûlée (GF)
As made by Kevin Lee Jacobs (www.kevinleejacobs.com)
Makes enough for 8 servings
1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla pod, split and scraped OR 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
10 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar plus extra for sprinkling
Special Equipment: 8 6-ounce ramekins or, for a one-dish dessert, an 11×13 casserole; a rimmed baking sheet or shallow roasting pan; a culinary torch
Set the oven rack at the lower-middle position; preheat oven to 325°F
Pour the cream into a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the vanilla pod and its contents (or the vanilla extract), and bring just to a simmer over a medium flame. Remove from heat, and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, break up the yolks with a wire whisk. Whisking constantly, gradually add the cup of sugar. Beat vigorously until the mixture turns pale and thick — about 1 minute.
Strain the hot cream through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl.
Whisking continuously, add 1/2 cup of the hot cream to the yolk mixture. Keep beating, and add the remaining cream in a slow, steady stream.
Fill the ramekins or casserole dish 3/4 full with the custard. Transfer to a baking sheet (or shallow roasting pan), and add enough boiling water to reach 1/2-inch or so up the sides. Bake until the custard barely shivers when shaken — 45-55 minutes. Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or for up to 3 days.
When you are ready to serve, sprinkle the dessert(s) with a shallow layer of sugar — about 1 teaspoon for each ramekin, and 3-4 tablespoons for a big-dish brûlée. Use the culinary torch to melt the sugar until it blisters and browns attractively. The topping will crystallize after a 1 minute rest.
Serve at once, or refrigerate, uncovered, for 2-3 hours. (If you wait too long, the sugar will soften. But you can re-sugar and re-burn the tops to crackling perfection.)
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