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!)
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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!?!
Classic Vanilla Bean Creme Brulée
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 whole vanilla bean
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Additional granulated sugar for topping
Preheat oven to 300° F.
Prepare the Vanilla-cream:
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.
Prepare the Custard:
Bring a teakettle or large saucepan of water to a boil.
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.)
Bake the Custard
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 experience, 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. Keep the torch constantly moving to avoid scorching or burning sugar.
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.
Tip: I got my kitchen torch on Amazon for less than $20. (Keep an eye out for deals.)
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