Crème brûlée is delicious, but seems hard to make at home, right? The fact that every Top Chef contestant who tries to make crème brûlée in 30 minutes fails doesn’t help the home cook’s confidence in tackling this recipe.
Here’s the secret: crème brûlée is as simple to make as it is delicious. Most of the time is spent chilling: you need to make sure it is fully set, and cold, before taking a torch to it.
And yes! Fire! – the other reason dessert impresses. You’ll need a torch to finish off this recipe, and with some practice, you can do this at the table for your guests! If you don’t have a torch, they’re cheap, and easy enough to find, along with a few ramekins, at your local Bed Bath and Beyond (you also will look like a badass when lighting candles with it).
The trick is in the sugary crust. I’ve tried all types of sugar for this recipe – brown, turbinado, superfine – and I’ve found simple granulated sugar tends to give the best results.
- 2 cups heavy cream
- ⅓ cup sugar
- pinch of salt
- ½ vanilla bean
- 5 egg yolks
- regular granulated sugar for topping
- Pour the cream, sugar and salt into a medium-sized saucepan.
- Slice the half of the vanilla bean in half again, lengthwise. With the tip of your blade scrape out the vanilla seeds and stir them into your cream. Throw the empty vanilla pod in there as well. Bring the pot to just before boiling under medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the sides start to simmer, turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile adjust your oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat to 300 degrees. Lay a kitchen towel in the base of a casserole dish and arrange your ramekins in it so they are not touching the sides or each other. Boil water in a kettle for later.
- Whisk your egg yolks in a large bowl until combined. Temper your eggs by slowly pouring your cream mixture into the egg yolks while whisking (this will keep your yolks from turning into scrambled eggs). Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a pitcher or liquid measuring cup.
- Evenly distribute your cream by pouring it into the ramekins and place in the oven. Carefully pour your boiling water into the casserole dish until it is about two-thirds up the sides of the ramekins. Lightly cover the top of the dish with aluminum foil and carefully slide the dish into the middle of the rack. Cook for 25 - 30 minutes, or until the custard jiggles like Jell-O.
- Place casserole dish on a rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Remove ramekins from the water bath and let fully cool on the rack. Place cellophane over each ramekin so that it touches the custard and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or until ready to use. You can keep them like this for up to three days.
- When you are ready to serve, remove the cellophane and sprinkle a spoonful of sugar over the top of the custard. Take the ramekin in your hands and tilt it until the sugar is evenly distributed across the top, pouring any excess out onto your next custard.
- Take your brûlée torch and slowly pass it over the sugar, after about 10 seconds it will start to bubble and brown. Keep moving the torch to prevent burning the sugar, you’re looking for a caramel brown color. If you like a crispier shell, you can repeat the process by sprinkling on more sugar and torching again.
- Garnish with berries, mint leaves, or a crispy cookie.