Imagine a dessert so amazingly decadent . . . so amazingly smooth and velvety and soft that you feel like one of its parents was a cloud, and one was an angel. That’s exactly what Crème Brûlée tastes like. And it just so happened that, this weekend, I was making Lavender French Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache
(which use only egg whites), and, so it transpired . . . that I was left with nothing but yolks. And when life gives you yolks . . .
Make Crème Brûlée! Yes. Your tongue deserves a day at the spa.
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this!
Crème Brûlée basic recipe (I don’t think this has an “author”– it is pretty basic)
6 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups heavy cream (568 grams)
6 tbsp. white sugar (or 90 grams)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Yep. That’s it. Sometimes simple is best.
Now . . . directions.
Bring cream and vanilla almost to a boil in a saucepan. Stir occasionally and remove from heat when the cream has bubbles along the edges of the pan. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and white sugar until the egg mixture is light yellow and lightweight. Very slowly whisk the hot cream into the egg yolks, whisking while you mix. Place the custard mixture into ramekins and place in a water bath. Bake at 325 for roughly 45 minutes, until the custards are set, but still kind of “shake” like jello when the pan is moved. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in water bath until you can touch the ramekins. Remove ramekins from water bath and finish cooling in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Top with sugar and torch or broil the tops of custards before serving.
Now, let’s do this in pictures!
This is really pretty simple. I was surprised how easy it was, compared to all the hype that this dessert gets. (Evil chuckle– take five minutes and make everyone think you took all day! Bwahaha!!!!) First, place your heavy cream and vanilla into a saucepan. Heat at medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until the cream starts to get very hot. You are looking for bubbles around the edges– almost boiling, but not quite. So meanwhile, while all that milky goodness is going on . . .
Put your egg yolks and sugar into your mixer and whisk it with the whisk attachment. I have no idea how people made stuff like this before the arrival of Kitchenaid. Seriously. They must have had biceps like Oak trees. I don’t even want to think about making puff pastry by hand . . .
But I digress.
It takes a good 3 minutes or so until the mixture is light and a lighter color of yellow.
Meanwhile . . . (you multitasker, you!), get a nice “spouted” (is that a word? It should be) bowl and microwave yourself some water until it is almost boiling. Alternatively, you can use a tea kettle, but I don’t own one of those, so microwave, it is. This hot water will be for your water bath. Yes. These are spoiled little custards. They want a nice, hot bath. And they want it now. Mr. Bubble not required.
This is what your egg yolk and sugar mixture will look like when it’s ready to roll. See? Nice and sunny and light. Ahh . . . it feels good to be alive and lighter.
Don’t worry. Here comes the heavy cream!!! Forget light.
Next, you’re going to gradually whisk your hot cream into your egg yolk mixture. You want to do this really slowly so that you don’t end up with scrambled eggs. If you do it gradually, the eggs have a chance to “temper,” or kind of gradually get used to the rise in temperature without cooking. It’s like drinking really hot coffee– you do it a little at a time so that it doesn’t shock the system.
This is what your cooking cream will look like when it’s ready– nice, foamy bubbles on the edge, and probably a little steam rising when you stir, but not really “boiling” yet. This is perfect. Take it off the heat and add it to the eggs, little by little.
This is what your mixture will look like when all the cream is added. It will be light and frothy. Use a spoon to scoop the froth off the top. Just throw the foam away– those little custards are lobbying for a bubble bath, but enough is enough, here, kids. No foam today!
This is what the custard will look like when the foam is removed. Go ahead and ladle your cream into the ramekins. You don’t have to grease them, first. Just add the cream. This recipe perfectly filled 4 5 inch ramekins, for me.
Now, tuck these little guys into a pan and put the pan into a 325 degree oven. Before you close the oven door, pour your boiling/really hot water into the pan (NOT into the ramekins). Kind of let it rise around the ramekins so that the water comes about 2/3 of the way up the dishes. This water will cushion the custards so that they don’t curdle while you bake.
So how will you know when these little beauties are done?
I’m so glad you asked.
It took me about 45-50 minutes, at 325, to bake my 5 inch ramekins. HOWEVER . . . your oven may be a little different, and you may have different sized ramekins. So . . . basically, you will know your custards are done when the tops are “set” (with kind of a skin on top), but the centers still jiggle a little when you move the pan– kind of like jello. They should not look liquid underneath the skin– that’s too liquidy. Don’t think waterbed. Think gelatin. Think post baby body– mostly sturdy, but a little jiggle in the center, in spite of yourself. 😉
When the custards come out of the oven, let them sit in their cozy water bath for a little bit. Don’t give any magazines or manicures. These little gals are spoiled enough, with their hot baths and bubbles.
Let them sit until they are cool enough that, with your bare hands, you can lift them out of the water. Dry them off and place them in the refrigerator to finish cooling. I covered mine lightly with a towel so that they would be covered, but moisture could still escape while they cooled.
After the custards have chilled at least 2 hours (preferably most of the day), it’s time to partayyyy!!! Get the gals out and bedeck them in their best. Sprinkle a little sugar across the tops of each of them– you don’t need tons– just enough that it covers, lightly, but you can still see the yellow custard underneath. Kind of tilt the ramekin left and right, so that the sugar slides over the top of the custard and covers it, completely. You can dump off any leftover sugar that doesn’t adhere.
Now for the fun part . . . the FAHHHHHRRRRRR . . . (fire).
There are many things that pass for kitchen torches. But let me tell you something . . . the “torches” that you buy at places in a “Brûlée kit” are really nothing more than glorified lighters. I’m serious. The “flame” is basically like the weensy blob of heat that you get from a match. Invest in a better torch– you can use these things for everything from Crème Brulee to Copycat Honeybaked Ham
. I adore my Iwatani kitchen torch. It has a removable head, which means you can pack the torch if you are traveling, and just buy a cheapie can of fuel when you get wherever you’re going (Asian markets are a fantastic place to pick these up for almost nothing). I got my torch head here
for about $25, and the torch makes a beautiful, serious flame that you can make larger or smaller, depending on what kind of meal you’re making. Don’t be a weensy match holder. Impress your guests by showing them some serious flame at the table.
So anyway, break out your kitchen torch and lightly torch the tops of the custards– this is what makes them Crème Brûlée– broiled creams. Alternatively, you can use the broiler of your oven, but be very careful, because you don’t want the top to burn (nothing smells worse than burning sugar), and you don’t want the custards to get warm. Some people pack the ramekins in ice, in a 13×9 pan, while the custards are under the broiler, to keep the custard cold while the tops broil.
Either way, though, this is a showstopper of a dessert that is a lot easier to prepare than its fancy name would suggest. They can be prepared in advance and whisked out of the fridge for a show-stopping end to a romantic meal. They can be an extra special dessert to share on date night. They can be a consolation prize for one after a rough day. And what a prize!
You deserve it. Because you did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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