Saturday, December 11, 2010

Crème Brûlée

Crème brûlée is one of those perfect desserts. Simple and elegant, and sometimes exactly what you want and need.

Nice analogy Julia, we understand what you're trying to say here, but (try as I might) I don't know if I can imagine choosing Jell-O over crème brûlée. Maybe if you were sick...

Anyway, there are many variations on the recipe for  crème brûlée. More or less egg yolk, maybe including whole eggs, all heavy cream, half and half, whole milk...

Plus the variations on flavor! Chocolate, fruits, spices, infused with tea or zest...

I like the plain old perfect original vanilla the best, but I don't want them to be huge.
They fill a need, and in my opinion they're best in a smaller, more manageable size.
The size, as well as the vanilla flavor is more quiet and unassuming, and it doesn't scream, "LOOK AT ME!"

But... it's still completely perfect (if it's made well).

I know some people aren't willing to take the time to make it, but really, it's not THAT difficult.
Once when I was working in a cooking store, a customer asked how to make crème brûlée. When I started to explain, and only got as far as mixing the ingredients and cooking the custards in a water bath, he shut me off. It was too much work, he said, and he wasn't really willing to go to the trouble. Do things really have to be immediate? Immediate gratification? Sorry pal, those instances are few and far between. You can't eat it right out of the oven anyway! They're a little wobbly and eggy tasting when they're HOT. The texture becomes silky, and the flavors come together after they're cool.

They're simple, but they do require a little effort.
Maybe he was used to just ordering it in a restaurant and having it suddenly, magically appear... ta-da!

A kitchen torch isn't completely necessary, however it does offer control while caramelizing the tops of the crème brûlées. That said, I will acknowledge that some people are terrified of wielding fire. Me? Not so much. Learning to weld is actually something on my bucket list, and this could possibly be as close as I get to it.

It's ok, you can just use the broiler in your oven. Heat it up, put the custards on a pan under the hot element, leave the oven door cracked a little so you can keep a close eye on the caramelization process. You're not going for completely charred cremes here.

One thing though, the cremes will probably not remain cool if you place them in the oven, but they will if you use a torch. After torching, give them a little time to rest so that the caramelized sugar on top hardens so it will shatter when tapped with a spoon.

Crème Brûlée
makes 6

1 c heavy cream
4 egg yolks
2 T granulated sugar, plus extra sugar for the tops of cremes
pinch of salt
2 t pure vanilla extract
1 c milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place milk in a small saucepan and heat on low until hot.
Meanwhile, have a tea kettle or another saucepan filled with water heating.
Whisk together cream, egg yolks, sugar, salt, and vanilla until well combined. Slowly whisk in the hot milk. Pour the hot custard mixture through a sieve into a bowl or large measuring cup, and divide among 6, 4-6 oz ramekins or custard cups.
Place the cups into a 9 x 13 in. baking pan. Pour the hot water into the pan, around the cups to a depth that reaches about 1 inch up the sides of the cups.
Carefully place the pan into the oven.
Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until set (remember that they will still be a little wobbly). Remove the cups from the hot water with tongs and place on a rack to cool at room temperature until you are able to handle them. Place the cups in the refrigerator and chill.
Before serving, sprinkle about 1 tsp of sugar over each creme. Torch with a kitchen torch, slowly waving the flame over the sugar, or broil in the oven with the door cracked slightly (keep an eye on them).
Let cool slightly before serving and only torch those cremes you will need.


  1. oooooh----my favorite!

  2. CAn this be wrecked or does it always come out great?

  3. It can be wrecked, yes. If you don't stir while adding the hot liquid to the eggs, you could end up with scrambled eggs. I guess you could overcook it, and it would probably end up tough instead of silky.

  4. my absolute FAVORITE!!! Thanks Natalie!

  5. I didn't know you wanted to learn to weld. Amazing. I miss creme brulee.