Several years ago I received ramekins and a food (“culinary”) torch for my birthday, but somehow never made it to, well, making crème brûlée. It takes ingredients in amounts that I don’t just have sitting around my house, and I never made a concerted effort to collect all of them at once (and for the longest time I had a mental block about separating eggs). However, I finally found myself in a must-make- crème-brûlée situation with the few extra egg yolks in my fridge that needed using, thanks to my Macaroon Emergency. And so, my crème brûlée journey finally began.

It’s easier to make than you think, really! All you have to do is heat up heavy cream with a vanilla bean, wait a bit, whisk it with egg yolks and some sugar, and then oven it. (Don’t worry, I have included more legitimate instructions below.) Honestly the most time-consuming part is waiting. So you aren’t actually doing anything, in particular. Then, you sprinkle it with sugar, and get to food torch it up.

food torch!

I wish I knew of more uses for this. Baked Alaska time?

 

With the use of an actual vanilla bean (a must!!) — and not vanilla extract — these smell more beautiful than anything else I have ever baked. Better than chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and cheesecake. Also better than any food too, like curry and barbeque. But maybe not campfires. Anyway, the pure, gentle smell of vanilla bean is crazy amazing; I’d fill my house and dorm room with it right now and forever, if I could.

Crème Brûlée – from Food Network, Alton Brown

Use these:
1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 cup vanilla sugar, divided
6 large egg yolk
2 quarts hot water

Do These:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and reserve for another use.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually.
Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins.
Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake just until the crème brûlée is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Remove the crème brûlée from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top.
Divide the remaining 1/2 cup vanilla sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow the crème brûlée to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Extra tips from the Alton Brown accompanying video (he’s such a character):
– When you torch the sugar on top and it starts to melt, rotate the cup so that the sugar will flow around the surface and cover the crème evenly.
– Eat it immediately! You don’t want your torched sugar on top to get soggy, or the crème to get refrigerator-cold again. Plus it makes a great cracking noise when you dig in.

Extra tips from Me:
– Apparently I have weensy, outdated ramekins, because mine are not 8 ounces. So it made me 10 (and more if I had more ramekins!), but the cooking time was still accurate.
– I don’t preheat the oven; really, I just kinda wait till it’s needed. Otherwise it could just be sitting there for quite a while.
– If you are entertaining the thought that the sugar-torch part is just kind of for show and kind of a hassle maybe since you already waited so long to cook it and sit it already, STOP. First and foremost, you get to use a culinary torch (and how often is that otherwise?!). And second, the creamy custard that is about 75% of it smells like magic, but it’s still only average (see what I did there) without the sugar crusted top and generated warmth to complete it. Don’t skip it. I promise it makes all the difference. Believe me, please, I tried for you (okay no, it was actually because my food torch ran out of fuel. But same result. And a tragic one).

 

Paris Creme Brulee

 

It’s so very good. The one above is “authentic”, from a cute and comfy little open air cafe in Paris. It was quite sweet but also quite good, though cold — it probably didn’t help that I was at the cafe at like 1AM, because I don’t think they’re freshly torching any crème brûlées around that hour.

And, here’s mine. It’s not as big, but when it’s basically just heavy cream and egg yolks, a size like this won’t make you so over-full. If you’ve never had crème brûlée, perhaps you want to go find a made one somewhere first, so you kind of get the idea (I usually don’t make things I’ve never had before). Otherwise, go for it! It’s kind of the best.

 

Homemade Creme Brulee

 

Happy Saturday! What are you making today?

Rina