Recipe: Classic Creme Brûlée (France)

It was Jon’s birthday a few weeks ago, so we decided to celebrate by eating lots of melted raclette cheese, and topping it off with homemade creme brûlées for dessert. Jon had given me a creme brûlée torch for Christmas, and this was the first time we used it. We ran into a slight hiccup – at 9 p.m. when our creme brulees were all cooked and cooled, we took out the torch to use it, only to discover that the butane fuel for the torch was sold separately. Always one to improvise, I tried taking out a fire lighter, and held it over the creme brûlée, but all that happened was that one little granule of sugar turned into a translucent bubble. Googling around, I found out that I could just put our creme brulees under a broiler in the oven, but Jon was adamant that  we hadn’t bought creme brûlée dishes that could withstand the heat. Plus, that option didn’t sound as cool as setting something on fire.

So, we made mad dash to the late-night drugstores of Downtown. We finally found a butane container at RiteAid for only $5. We filed our torch up, and used it to make the most delightfully crispy burnt sugar top to our creme brulees.

Jon’s One-Line Review: “It’s fun to burn things and to eat them.” 

Ingredients: (makes 6 small creme brulees)

  • 2 cups of heavy (whipping cream)
  • 4-inch piece of vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
  • a hefty portion of granulated sugar for the topping.

Pour the cream into a saucepan, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream, and add the vanilla pod. Place over medium heat until small bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Remove the vanilla pod and scrape any remaining seeds into the cream.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until pale in color. Whisk in the 1/3 cup of sugar until dissolved. Whisk in the cream.

Put six small ramekins in a baking pan. Divide the custard mixture among the dishes. Pour warm water into the baking pan to come halfway up the side of the dishes. Bake in the oven for between 40 minutes to an hour, or until the center of each custard is set, but still jiggles slightly. Remove from oven and take dishes out of the hot water.

Let cool, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours (not an optional step, necessary for the custard to set!)

When ready to serve, make sure your creme brûlée torch is ready to go. Then, evenly sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over each custard. use the torch to caramelize the sugar.

Take out your teaspoon, crack the creme brûlée and enjoy!

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