There’s something absolutely rewarding about burning things because the recipe requires you to. It gives you the opportunity (or me..) to go out and buy a kitchen torch because the sheer idea of owning one makes me glee.
What are you looking at me like that for? I’m not a pyromaniac…maybe. But that’s not the point here, the point here is that we are making crème brûlée, or the most-obnoxiously-lettered-yet-hyper-delicious-custard that will make you feel like a saint and a sinner all at the exact same time. There ain’t nothing wrong with that, admit it, there isn’t.
I told my parents that, one of my baking goals on the baking-pre-college-bucket-list was to make crème brûlée. The idea of it seems intimidating. I mean, custard? I’m a surefire flan fan, but I’ve heard so many stories about how difficult it is to achieve correctly, so I was a bit nervous. But that’s the fun of it, really, the challenge. At least, for me it is. For all I know, you have made crème brûlée a billion times before and you are merely scoffing at my insecurities. Yooooou.
Anyway, when I completed these, I got the happiest feeling when I got to tap the spoon on the hardened caramel and heard that exciting “crrrk!” that told me I had SUCCESS. Ahhh, excuse me, I just got really happy.
If I can make it, then you can too! Come on! Let’s go!
First, let’s start with the basics. Like preheating the oven, making sure your torch has butane (or skipping this step entirely when you know that having a broiler works JUST. FINE. it’s true, dang, why didn’t I think of that at first), and getting your crème brûlée mixture at the ready. First, bring your cream and milk to a GENTLE simmer with the sugar and vanilla bean paste. What is vanilla bean paste? Why, its a genius mix of ultra concentrated vanilla bean seeds and a little extract. The flavor is so powerful, you won’t believe it. I had some of this left over from when I had gotten it from Williams Sonoma on a gift card months ago. It works wonderfully in cookies if you wan’t a little extra kick of vanilla without having to use an expensive bean. Ahem. Anyway, once your cream mixture has cooled a bit, go ahead and temper the eggs. Add a little cream them while whisking vigorously so that you don’t get any scrambled eggs in your custard, since that makes anyone cry like a little baby. Pour slowly, and you can speed up a bit when you have warmed the eggs enough, just keep whisking. Be sure to scrape the saucepan down as well! There are TONS of vanilla seeds left in it always.
These guys almost got away! Phew. Maybe next-time-I-mean-NEVER.
There will be a lot of foam on top, that just comes from the cream and the eggs. Skim the foam from the top and discard or eat, what have you. It just isn’t what you want here, because if that foam gets into the ramekins, then it will bake into, you guessed it, custardized foam.
Pour the custard (oh, prettiest color EVER) into your ramekins, I managed to get about seven ramekins worth of custard in here, so be wary of that. Be sure to stop a little shy of the rim, we don’t want to spill any! Also, make sure that your ramekins are in a baking pan that can hold them all (I used two separate ones in two ovens, four in one, three in the other). Then get your hot water.
And gently pour it in, make sure you don’t get any water in your custards! Fill until the water is about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until set. When I put a paring knife into one, it came out a little wet, but clean. Just make sure that it’s CLEAN, you can’t avoid the wet.
There we go! Now, to achieve absolute creaminess and yumminess, you have to chill these for a few hours. Distract yourself, or at least try to. I assure you, you won’t regret the time when you try these later on!
Mine all got a bit wrinkly when they chilled, but that’s alright, I’m TORCHING THEM! It’s time to break out the RING OF FIREEE. So, sprinkle about two teaspoons of superfine sugar over the custards. Superfine sugar will melt more easily and caramelize quickly so we won’t have to worry about heating the cold custard, just put some sugar in a food processor and process for about a minute or two, that’ll give you the right granule size! Start up your torch, following the manufacturer’s instructions, and hold it parallel to the sugar. Keep it moving as you go and make sure that you don’t hold it in the same spot. If you do, you will have one spot of burned sugar and hot custard while the rest is still granulated. Be careful. When your sugar is melted and nice and dark, leave it alone for about three minutes for the sugar to cool and harden, at this point, its sticky and hot, it will not crack when you think it will. I promise, your patience will be rewarded.
Alternatively, if you don’t have a kitchen torch, turn your oven’s broiler onto high and allow it to heat for about three or five minutes, we want it nice and hot. Sprinkle the sugar on the custards and place them on a baking tray, then put them under the broiler on the top rack. Watch them CLOSELY it shouldn’t take more than thirty seconds for the sugar to melt and caramelize. Remove immediately and allow the sugar to cool and harden.
I was impatient and didn’t take it any darker, but I know that would have been amazing.
Tap tap tap crack! Oh, what a wonderful noise!
So rich and decadent, you can’t stand it!
Excuse me, I need to run about three more miles.
1 C. Heavy Cream
1 C. Whole Milk
1/4 C. Granulated Sugar
1 Vanilla Bean (or 1 T. Vanilla Bean Paste or Extract)
4 Egg Yolks
1 Whole Egg
-Preheat oven to 325 degrees and prepare seven to eight ramekins inside a large baking dish (or split them up and use two ovens). Set aside.
1. In a medium saucepan, combine cream and milk with the vanilla and sugar, heat over medium heat, stirring until the mixture comes to a simmer and the sugar is completely dissolved. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
2. Place egg yolks and eggs in a bowl and whisk together until thoroughly combined. Temper the eggs by slowly adding in the cream mixture while whisking thoroughly, speed up when you come toward the end, making sure that no scrambled eggs are in the mixture. If you like, you can strain it.
3. Pour the custard into the ramekins, filling just shy of the lip. Pour hot water into the baking dish until it is halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the middles barely jiggle and a paring knife inserted into the center comes out wet yet clean. Place ramekins in the refrigerator and allow to chill for several hours (2 hours minimum).
4. Sprinkle chilled custard with 2 tsp. superfine sugar and start up a kitchen torch, following the manufacturer’s instructions, and hold the flame parallel over the sugar. While continuously moving the flame, melt the sugar and allow it to caramelize to an amber color.
Alternatively, if you don’t have a kitchen torch, turn your oven’s broiler onto high and allow it to heat for about three or five minutes, we want it nice and hot. Sprinkle the sugar on the custards and place them on a baking tray, then put them under the broiler on the top rack. Watch them CLOSELY it shouldn’t take more than thirty seconds for the sugar to melt and caramelize. Remove immediately.
Allow custard to rest for 3-5 minutes, so that the sugar may cool and harden.