Crème Brûlée

A lot of people think that making crème brûlée is a daunting task. It's not, really, can be made a couple days in advance, and seems to wow the hell out of people.

For 4

Ingredients

4 Egg Yolks
1¼ cup Heavy Cream
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
Dash of Salt
1 Vanilla Bean

Approximately 8 T Brown Sugar (for topping)

Garnish:
4 Strawberries (or 12 Raspberries)
4 Nice Sprigs of Mint

Directions

Preheat your oven to 325°.

Put your cream, granulated sugar, and salt into a medium stock pot. With a sharp knife, slice the vanilla bean along its side, lengthwise. Hold the bean over the stock pot, and carefully, with the edge of the knife, scrape the inside of the vanilla bean to get the seeds into the pot. Whisk this around to integrate the cream and sugar and salt.

Set the flame to medium, whisking frequently, and as soon as it comes up to a boil (i.e., as it's starting to hit a hard simmer), reduce the heat to low, and allow to cook for approximately 10 minutes (to insure that all the sugar breaks down).

While that's going on, you'll want to get your egg yolks ready. You'll want a bowl that they're destined for (which should be big enough to accommodate the cream and sugar mixture as well), as well as a bowl for the egg whites. Over the "egg whites" bowl, crack an egg and open it into the palm of your hand. Carefully jiggle the egg around, slightly opening your fingers, so as to separate the yolk from the whites. When you have the yolk in your hand, put it into the other bowl, and repeat for the other three eggs. You don't need the egg whites for this recipe, so you can toss them. Beat the 4 egg yolks with a fork or a whisk, until they're good and broken down (but not stiff), about a minute.

When your cream and sugar have cooked for 10 minutes, remove from the heat, and set aside to cool for approximately 5 minutes. You're going to be adding this to your egg yolks, but you don't want them to cook the eggs on contact.

Take four ramekins and put them in a Pyrex pan or a roasting pan - it doesn't really matter, but you want some kind of vessel that will allow you to pour water about half-way up the sides of the ramekins for cooking the crème brûlée.

After your 5 minute cooling period is up, slowly start pouring your cream and sugar mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks, slowly stirring with a whisk, until it's all added. Now, pour this mixture into a measuring cup, and evenly distribute the liquid into the four ramekins. If you're a stickler, you can use a toothpick to pop any bubbles at the top of each, but honestly, when you go to serve it, brown sugar's going to cover up any "blemishes". Now, pour fairly hot tap water into the pan that the ramekins are in, until water is about half-way up the side of the ramekins, and carefully put this into the oven.

After 25 minutes, open your oven, and very carefully rotate the pan 180°, so as to have everything cook evenly. Be careful to a) not burn yourself with the hot pan or water, and b) not splash any water into the ramekins. Close the oven, and let cook for another 25 minutes.

When the second 25 minutes is up, check on your masterpiece. I usually see how jiggly the tops are, and then insert a sharp knife or a cake tester into one of them, so as to be sure that the knife/tester comes out without any wet liquid on it (there will be a little bit stuck to it, but it should be custardy, not wet). Carefully remove the pan from the oven, and with a set of tongs (or a good strong spatula), remove each ramekin and set on a cooling rack. Let these cool on the rack for 30 minutes, then put into the fridge, uncovered, for at least 3 hours. If you're not serving them shortly after the 3 hours in the fridge (like the next day), then you'll want to put a piece of plastic wrap over the top of them after the 3 hours.

OK - now the fun part - serving them! Take your ramekins out of the fridge (and if they've been covered in plastic wrap, you might have to dab what little moisture has gathered on them with a paper towel), and lightly spread 2 T brown sugar on top of each with your fingers, being sure to have a nice, even layer on top of each. If you have a kitchen torch, this is the time to break it out. If not, set your oven to broil.

If you have a kitchen torch, fire it up, and quickly go over the top of the brown sugar on each ramekin (one at a time). The idea is to start burning/melting the sugar. Don't worry if a little fire starts to kick up - lightly blow it out with your lips, and keep torching the top until it looks nice and caramelized. Repeat for each, and place each on a dessert plate.

If you're using the broiler, put the ramekins on a cookie sheet, and place under the broiler. Keep an eye on them, and cook for approximately 2 - 3 minutes, until the brown sugar is caramelized. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven, and carefully remove the ramekins and place each on a dessert plate.

If you have strawberries, cut the top off of each, and with a good sharp knife, slice and fan the strawberries, and lay them across the top of each of your crème brûlées. If you have raspberries, put 3 on top of each. Then pop a nice spring of mint on each, and serve!

Good Prepping & Dining Music


Art of Noise
The Seduction of Claude Debussy

Thievery Corporation
DJ Kicks

Various Artists
Begin The Beguine: The Greats Of Swing