Most people love a tasty Crème Brûlée, especially the silky texture of the custard under the glass-like burned top. I have had many flavored variations of this French classic, but I prefer to stick with the old-faithful vanilla bean. I do make one exception: in the summer, when my lemon verbena is getting tall, I like to steep a few branches in the cream first. It gives the Crème Brûlée a nice curious hint of lemon.
This dessert can seem a bit intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Crème Brûlée are quite easy to prepare once you get the hang of it. They can also be made the day before you need them; this makes it easy to wow your guests with a tasty dessert that is already made. When you are ready, all you need to do is burn the tops with your torch. And it is always a party-pleaser to pull out the torch for browning the Crème Brûlée.
Vanilla Crème Brûlée
1 quart Cream
1 each Vanilla Bean
2/3 cup Sugar
1 pinch Kosher Salt
10 each Egg yolks
8 teaspoon Turbinado Sugar (for burning on the tops)
1. Preheat oven to 300°. Place a kitchen towel on the bottom of high sided baking dish or roasting pan and arrange eight 4- to 5-ounce ramekins on the towel; set aside. Bring a kettle of water to a boil over high heat.
2. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean. Combine the vanilla seeds, vanilla bean pod, cream, granulated sugar, and salt together in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
3. Whisk the yolks together in a large bowl until uniform. Whisk about 1 cup of the cream mixture into the yolks until loosened and combined; repeat with 1 more cup of the cream. Add the remaining cream and whisk until thoroughly combined. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a 2-quart measuring cup or pitcher, discarding the solids. Pour the mixture evenly into the ramekins.
4. Gently place the baking dish with the ramekins on the oven rack. Pour the boiling water into the baking dish, being careful not to splash any water into the ramekins, until the water reaches two-thirds the height of the ramekins. Bake until the centers of the custards are just barely set and are no longer sloshy (30 to 35 minutes). A thermometer inserted in the centers should register 170 degrees Begin checking the temperature about 5 minutes before the recommended time.
5. Once cooled, wrap each ramekin tightly in plastic and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
6. To Serve: Unwrap the ramekins; if condensation has collected on the custards, place a paper towel on the surface to soak up the moisture. Sprinkle each custard with about 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar and then tilt and tap the ramekin until the sugar covers the entire top surface evenly. Ignite a torch and caramelize the sugar by holding the end of the flame about 1 inch from the surface of the custard until the sugar melts, then burns to a golden brown. Turn the ramekin and continue until the entire surface is deeply golden brown and hard.
– Two teaspoons of vanilla extract, whisked into the yolks, can be substituted for the vanilla bean.
– I also suggest getting a proper propane torch from the hardware store. Crème Brûlée kits are available, but I have not yet found one that works better than a standard propane torch.