Literally, that’s what it means, after all – burned cream. Creme Brulee is a favorite dessert from French cuisine, a delectable cold custard with a freshly torched, crispy caramel layer on top. Crunchy and creamy, vanilla and caramel, hot and cold meet in a great dessert. Classic and classy – perfect for a special occasion; or just to make any occasion special.
Preparing creme brulee is pretty easy – this amount yielded me 3 small custard cups, or two of the larger ramekins.
First, beat together 3 egg yolks with a tablespoon and a half of white sugar and a quarter teaspoon of vanilla extract until creamy and white. While it may seem counter-intuitive to dirty up the electric beater just for this, it makes a huge difference. By hand, this could take upwards of 10 minutes, while it’s done in about two with the electric beater.
In a small saucepan, bring a cup of heavy whipping cream almost to a boil. Rinse the pan with some water, leaving it slightly wet, before pouring in the cream; this way it’s less likely to burn down. Also, be sure to keep stirring it at all times for the exact same reason.
Once it is ready, add it to the egg mixture, whisking as you pour in the cream in a slow stream to avoid the eggs “cooking” from the heat, and leaving chunks. Find a saucepan or pot that you can fit the bowl on top of, and fill it with enough water that once the bowl is on top, the bottom of the bowl just doesn’t touch the surface of the water. This way, you technically use the bowl and the pot as a double boiler, gently steaming out the custard on a low, even heat.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees as you put on the water to boil. When the water reaches a slow, steady boil, insert the bowl, and heat the custard while whisking it continuously for just a few minutes – until it’s slightly thickened. To test it, stick a spoon in the custard and pull it out with the back facing upwards. If the custard lightly coats the back without dripping down immediately, it’s just perfect.
Pour the custard into cups or ramekins, and place them in a brownie or bar pan filled with an inch or so of water. Put the pan in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the custard is almost set. Let the cups cool down enough to handle, then put them in the fridge for at least an hour, but preferably overnight to let the custard cool and set.
In the meantime, mix together 2 tablespoons each of brown and white sugar. Before serving, sprinkle this sugar mix generously over the top of each cup of custard.
Now comes the fun part. If you have a kitchen torch or a torch lighter, gently torch the top sugar layer, burning and caramelizing the sugar on top. Lacking this, you can also stick the cups under the broiler for just a few minutes. If you do this, make sure your cups can withstand the extreme direct heat! You may also want to cool the cups again after broiling them – this is not necessary after torching.
A festive, elegant and decadent dessert – perfect to make that special dinner shine.
Enjoy your meal!
Whenever I think of creme brulee, I can’t help but think of this movie scene. It’s from Amelie (Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain), a French comedy from 2001. And just like Amelie, I love to crack the caramel with my spoon, too…