Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Crème Brûlée

Crème brûlée is my most favorite dessert in the world. The best creme brulee I've ever had was in Paris, of course. My sister and I had just arrived on a flight from London. It was pretty late and we were starving. We found a restaurant close to our hotel, wobbled in (our legs were wobbly with hunger), and ate a delicious meal. I then used my impeccable (re: pathetic) French skills to order a dessert to share. I think I said something like, "Oi, garçon, nous mangerons un dessert, ensemble, sil-te-plaît? Deux cuillères, une crème brûlée." the translation of what I said was, "Oi, sir, we will eat one dish, together, please? Two spoons, one crème brûlée." He was so impressed he gave it to us for free. Just kidding. He charged us extra for my terrible accent. Just kidding again, we paid the regular amount.

Despite loving this crunchy sugar-topped custard, I've never made it myself because I didn't own a kitchen torch. But I recently bought one, soley with the intention of making crème brûlée (though it's come in handy elsewhere).
Ingredients:
3 cups cream (I used light cream but heavy whipping cream would work too)
1 vanilla bean
4 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
pinch of salt
+sugar for brûlée-ing

Start by combining the cream, vanilla caviar, and scraped vanilla bean in a saucepan. Heat over low just until scalding.
Discard the scraped bean.
In a large bowl, combine egg yolks, sugar, and salt and whisk vigorously until the color goes from a rich yellow to a lovely pale yellow.
Here's a progression of the yolks changing color.
Temper the egg yolks by ladling in a little bit of cream and whisking vigorously to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Keep adding ladle by ladle until all of the cream is incorporated.
Prepare your ramekins in a pan.
Ladle the custard into the ramekins and then pour some hot water into the pan to create a water bath. The water bath will allow the custard to cook gently, giving it a silky, rich texture.
Bake the custard in a 325 oven for 45 minutes to an hour. The baking time will depend on the size and depth of your ramekins. My shallow ramekins (which hold about 5 oz.) took 45 minutes while my deeper ramekins (which hold about 8 oz.) took an hour. You can tell the custard is finished when it's firm but still slightly jiggly in the center. You don't want it to firm up completely; it'll be too dry and jello-like instead of soft and perfect.
Let the custards cool at room temperature for about an hour before chucking them in the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight if you have the time.
About 20 minutes before you're ready to serve, pull the custards out and let them sit at room temperature before you brûlée them.

Sprinkle the tops of the custard with a little bit of sugar and then fire up your torch and brûlée the tops. If you don't have a torch, you can use the broiler. I used plain old caster sugar but I suppose I could have used sugar in the raw as well. Either way, you're just looking for a lovely crunchy caramel topping. And honestly, though the crunchy caramel will be missed, if you're not keen on torching or broiling, enjoy the custard on its own. It's so lovely.
Pretty, huh?

Here are a few shots of my deeper ramekins.
Seriously, these are super creamy and silky and delicious and amazing and on and on. The little bits of vanilla bean are so pretty - and flavorful, of course - and the shards of caramel are awesome.
Yep.
Here's the recipe page:

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