Classic Vanilla Crème Brûlée

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30 Dec Classic Vanilla Crème Brûlée

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Until recently, crème brûlée defied me. I followed the instructions meticulously and ended up serving guests a high-fat vanilla liquid with a soggy sugar crust. Then chocoatiers Dominique and Cindy Duby wrote Crème Brûlée: More Than 50 Decadent Recipes and showed me the errors of my ways.

First mistake: I used a glass dish for the water bath. The Dubys recommend a stainless steel or aluminum pan since glass and cast iron retain the heat. The water bath prevents the pan from getting hotter than 212°F (100°C, water’s boiling point), so the heat-hogging qualities of glass and iron defeat the propose. This time, I used a metal cake pan and it worked like a charm.

See… the custard holds up.

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Second mistake: Instead of burning the sugar, I melted the custard. You see, I used the broiler in my crappy oven but couldn’t get the dessert close enough to the flame. Ten minutes later… I had hot ramekins, oozy sugar and a cream-loaded failure on my hands.

A kitchen torch (which can be expensive), or even a small blowtorch from the hardware store (which is much more economical) work best. You can use the broiler, but the Dubys suggest you freeze the custard for an hour first. Then set the broiler to high and put the ramekins close to the element. Since I can’t get the dessert close enough and didn’t freeze the custard, it’s little wonder my version resembled soup.

This time, I borrowed a kitchen torch from a friend and it worked beautifully. In less than a minute, I had a perfect caramel crust…

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…which shattered under my spoon.

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I got so excited by my success, I ventured further into the book and tried their Chocolate, Orange and Candied Ginger version. It was like velvet. Only better.

Next month, I’ll be looking at healthier options, but until 2008 ends, I’ll indulge in simple pleasures like this. Not a bad way to end the year.

Classic Vanilla Crème Brûlée
Printable Recipe

Makes 4

Excerpt published with permission from Crème Brûlée: More Than 50 Decadent Recipes by Dominique and Cindy Duby

Ingredients

  • 1 vanilla bean (or 1/4 to 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, but the bean is best)
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) whipping cream
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 (50 g) cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp (30 g) granulated sugar for caramelizing

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).
  2. Split vanilla bean lengthwise and, with the tip of a knife, scrape seeds into a medium bowl. Whisk cream, egg yolks, and sugar until well combined. Using a ladle, divide cream mixture evenly among 4 ramekins*. Place the ramekins in a shallow roasting pan. Pour hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Bake until custard barely moves when ramekins are shaken, or a knife inserted in center of custard comes out clean, about 45 to 60 minutes. Remove ramekins from the roasting pan and let cool at room temperature for at least 45 minutes. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (overnight is best).
  3. Just before serving, sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over custards to cover them completely. Turn upside down to remove excess sugar. Ignite a blowtorch and caramelize sugar until evenly melted, moving the torch constantly so sugar doesn’t burn.

* The Duby’s suggest you use the shallowest ramekins you can find since the heat will be more evenly distributed during baking and reduce the risk of overcooking.

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No Comments
  • Dana McCauley
    Posted at 14:55h, 30 December Reply

    Good for you! I used to have make creme brulee daily when I worked as pasty assistant at Pronto in the early nineties. As a result, I can’t even face the stuff anymore. That said, if I was going to dip my spoon in c.b., yours would be the one I’d choose. Looks perfect!

  • Diana Burrell
    Posted at 15:14h, 30 December Reply

    Creme brulee is one of my favorite desserts to make. Some other tips that work for me: place a kitchen towel in the water bath – don’t let the ramekins rest directly on the pan. This keeps the water bath all around the custards. Also, I cover the water bath with foil to prevent a skin from forming on the top of the custards. I pull them out of the oven when they’re still jiggly in the middle; they’ll firm up to creamy perfection while cooling.

  • debbie
    Posted at 16:08h, 30 December Reply

    This is hillarious. My husband has been bugging me to make creme brulee for him. I’ve been putting it off, telling him I don’t have a blow torch, so he went out and bought one. Now I have to make it. Thanks for the recipe. I’ll try it this week. I’ve never made it before and I’ve been reluctant, but now I will try it. Thanks again.

  • cheryl
    Posted at 17:10h, 30 December Reply

    I have all the ramekins, have the little torch, and have a houseful of eggs. Why I’m not eating creme brulee this instant is beyond me.

    I’m going to check out that book, too. Congrats on your success!

  • Elizabeth Kricfalusi
    Posted at 18:44h, 30 December Reply

    Creme brulee is my favourite dessert. The first time I had it was as an adult. It was at L’Orangerie, a very high-priced restaurant in Los Angeles. It’s still the best I’ve ever had. They mixed fresh berries in the custard.

    I’ve made it a couple of times in the past, but it’s been a long time, so sounds like a good project for the new year!

  • Serenity Now!
    Posted at 22:31h, 30 December Reply

    Oh YUMMERS this is my favorite dessert!

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 23:43h, 30 December Reply

    Dana, I completely understand your position. After working at Swiss Chalet during their chicken-only and ugly Swiss Miss costumes phase I couldn’t eat chicken for almost a decade. Glad you think the c.b. looks good.

    Diana, thanks for the GREAT tip. I wanted mine a titch creamier and will try your foil trick next time. And believe me, there WILL be a next time!

    Debbie, I’m glad to oblige your husband’s creme brulee whim. Please let me know how it turns out. Andrew gobbled the results and it sounds like our husbands have similar tastes, so you creme brulee should be a hit.

    Cheryl, the book is AMAZING. Jaw-dropping photography and both sweet and savory brulees. Oh, did I mention the caramel art? I was soooooo tempted but didn’t have the proper gloves.

    Elizabeth, the berries would be perfect. I was thinking raspberries would add a lovely burst. The book includes a lot of fruit brulees, which I’m dying to try.

    Serenity, you, Elizabeth and I are on the same wavelength!

  • The Food Hunter
    Posted at 13:44h, 31 December Reply

    My husband loves creme brulee. I’ve really got to break down and make it for him one day. thanks for the motivation

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 15:19h, 02 January Reply

    Food Hunter, if you do make creme brulee, let me know how it turns out. Diana left a great comment on how to ensure the custard is extra creamy.

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