Meet Brûlée – Custard’s Fancy French Aunt
Last week, I introduced you to Custard’s sexy Latin cousin, Flan. Today, I’d like you to meet the Custard’s elegant, aristocratic French aunt, Brûlée. Crème Brûlée. (Oh, I do so love it when I get to use all those fancy French accents!)
Classic crème brûlée is a recipe I have avoided for a very long time, mostly because I was afraid it was just too far above my raisin’, as Mr. B is fond of saying. I imagined its luxurious, velvety texture to be far too complex for a simple self-taught cook like me to achieve. Boy, was I wrong.
In practice, I found crème brûlée to be surprisingly easy to make – definitely easier than flan with its scary “flipping over” step. Plus, you get to play with Fire. On purpose! How cool it that!?!
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 whole vanilla bean
- 6 large egg yolks
- ½ cup sugar
- Additional granulated sugar for topping
- Preheat oven to 300° F.
- In a small saucepan, whisk (almost) constantly and bring cream to barely a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from heat immediately when you begin to see bubbles forming around the sides of the pan.
- Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the warm cream, then add the vanilla bean pieces. Let vanilla beans stand in cream for 30 minutes.
- Bring a teakettle or large saucepan of water to a boil.
- Combine egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and beat until pale yellow and thick. Pour the vanilla and cream mixture into the egg mixture and whisk thoroughly to combine.
- Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and strain the custard mixture. (I do this twice.)
- Blend strained mixture with a whisk one more time. (There will still be tiny vanilla seeds in the mixture. They are supposed to be there.)
- Place a paper towel on the bottom of a large baking pan. This keeps the ramekins from slipping. (The pan needs to be large enough to hold four ramekins.)
- Set the ramekins on the paper towel. Fill each ramekin with equal amounts of the custard mixture.
- Pour about one inch of water into the pan. It should come about halfway up the ramekins, but no more. You don’t want water to splash into your custard mixture.
- Bake about 25-35 minutes, depending on the depth of your ramekins. Custards should appear set around the edges but slightly loose in the center.
- Turn off the oven, open the oven door, and allow custard to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Place in the refrigerator for 2 hours to cool completely.
- When custards are completely cool, sprinkle the top evenly with granulated sugar. In my expereince, distributing the sugar one thin layer at a time will yield better results than putting it all on at once. Using a kitchen torch, carefully brown the top to caramelize the sugar.
- The picture above has one layer of sugar. Add layers until the desired thickness and caramelization is achieved.
Crème brûlée claims a noble European lineage: The earliest known reference to Crème Brûlée as it is known today appeared over 400 years ago in a 1691 cookbook by François Massialot. Massialot was a French chef who served such renowned notables as Philippe I, brother of Louis XIV and Duke of Orleans and later his son, Philippe II, (also) Duke of Orleans.
I got my little kitchen torch during a flash deal last December on Amazon for less than $20. Keep your eyes open for a good deal, or just follow this [affiliate] link and get one now!
Is there a recipe that you are hesitant to try? Let me know and I’ll see what I can do to make it easier for you!