Creme Brûlée: Yes, You Can!

The homes on my old country road are already getting decked out for the holidays. How about where you live?

Yep, in a couple of days Thanksgiving will be a happy memory, so it’s time to think about special food for December holidays. 

For me, that means saving eggs from my girls/chickens since they’re molting and egg production is not peak. Lots of my favorite Christmas dishes use eggs, including this recipe for creme brûlée. 

So, maybe you think this restaurant quality dessert is complicated. It’s honestly not hard to make. 

As usual, follow my detailed instructions, and success is yours!

Baking creme brûlée in a Bain Marie/water bath insures gentle, uniform heat around the custards. That’s why you need a baking pan with high sides. 

Creme brûlée is a unique dessert, silky smooth custard underneath a sweet crackling sugar crust. And each one is single serve, an elegant dessert to have with self distancing still in place. 

Classic creme brûlée

This makes eight 6 oz. ramekins. 

See tips below for other sizes.

My instructions are for whisking by hand. 

Use an electric mixer on low if you want.

Recipe can be cut in half for smaller batch.

Ingredients

1 quart whipping cream

1 vanilla bean, pounded and split lengthwise or 1 tablespoon vanilla

1/8 teaspoon salt

10 large egg yolks, room temperature preferred, but not absolutely necessary

1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

Instructions 

Preheat oven to 325.

Pour cream, vanilla bean and salt into pan over low heat. 

Cook just until hot. Let sit a few minutes to infuse vanilla before removing bean. (If using extract, add now.) 

Place yolks in large bowl and add sugar. Whisk for several minutes, until real light yellow in color. 

Next, add cream: pour 1 cup cream slowly into egg/sugar mixture, whisking constantly. Called tempering, this prevents eggs from curdling.

Keep adding cream slowly, whisking constantly. 

Place ramekins in rimmed baking pan, and pour in custard until 3/4 full.

Place pan inside oven, pour very hot water half way up ramekins.

Bake until custard is just set (it will still be a bit jiggly in middle) but not brown, about 30-40 minutes, depending on size of ramekins. 

Remove ramekins, let cool, refrigerate, covered, several hours or up to 3 days. Brûlée will firm up. 

Adding sugar crust

Brûlée must be cold before adding sugar crust.

Sprinkle each with about a teaspoon sugar (depending on size) in thin layer. 

Use kitchen torch to burn sugar to form crust, working quickly to avoid cooking custard below. Serve within 3 hours.

No torch? No worries — use broiler

Put ramekins on cookie sheet 2-3 inches under broiler.  

Turn broiler on and broil just until sugar melts and browns (you might get a few black patches) a few minutes only. 

What kind of ramekins work?
Anything ovenproof works. 

Smaller ramekins take less time than larger ones. 

Start checking smaller ones about 25 minutes in. 

Repurpose vanilla bean

Bury bean in granulated sugar and use it to flavor beverages and fruit. 

Can sugar crust be left off?

Sure, you’ll still have a lovely dessert, not creme brûlée (which means “burnt cream”). 

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