I say this every time I bring up something French, but I still feel compelled to say it every time: I am a Francophile; as such, I love French food. As a matter of fact, two of my first food blog posts ever, when I started my former food blog Thyme for Food, were about French foods. The first one was a delicious, if not terribly photogenic, Gâteau Framboise Royale. The other one, Steak au Poivre. I have yet to try a French dish I don’t like, but my favorite is Crème Brûlée. I love Crème Brûlée. There is something so decadent about eating basically nothing but sugar, eggs, and heavy cream. I love Crème Brûlée so much that I judge French restaurants outside of France based on their Crème Brûlée. It’s a very simple dish but one easy to get wrong. The consistency must be just solid enough to be set, but not so set that it’s like gelatine. The custard must be cold, or at the very least cool, and the caramel crust made just before serving so that it’s still room temperature, but preferably warm. I’m picky, I know.
I have made Crème Brûlée several times, and I have eaten it countless times with varying degrees of success, but this recipe comes as close to perfect as I’ve experienced. It’s a simple, unadulterated version, without fancy flavorings, but oh so good. It’s rich enough to satisfy but not cloying. It’s just heaven.
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
a small pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)
brûlée sugar or regular granulated sugar for the crust
Preheat the oven to 300 F. Bring 3 or 4 cups of water to a boil and keep it hot.
Put the cream in a saucepan and stir over medium heat until it comes to just below a boil. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, granulated sugar, and vanilla paste until blended. Very slowly, and starting with a small amount at a time in order to prevent the eggs from being scrambled, add the hot cream to the egg mixture. Mix well and strain through a sieve.
Place 4 small ramekins in an 8 x 8 glass oven dish, or large enough to accommodate the ramekins. Pour the hot water into the pan until it comes about halfway up the ramekins. Distribute the custard evenly among the four ramekins. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the custards are set but still a bit jiggly in the center.
Remove the water bath from the oven and let it stand until the ramekins are cool enough to handle. Remove the ramekins from the water bath, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1.5 hours, but preferably overnight.
When ready to serve, unwrap the ramekins and dust the surface of each custard with about 1 teaspoon of brûlée sugar or granulated sugar. Using a kitchen blow torch, caramelize the sugar taking care not to burn it.
This recipe is an adaptation of one found in Crème Brûlée: The Bonjour Way, by Randolph W. Mann. Unfortunately, Crème Brûlée requires special equipment like a blow torch. I know that some people use the broiler in the oven but I have found that not to be very effective. It makes the custard warm and takes a long time to caramelize the sugar. On the other hand, some people *cough* Alton Brown *cough* use a welding blow torch. While I’m sure that a power blow torch is effective, it would probably also be effective at burning my house down, or my hands at the very least. Instead, I use a good home kitchen blow torch. I can’t find the specific one I use, but one like this one will do. As for the brûlée sugar, it’s nice to have because it caramelizes faster but it’s not essential. I bought mine some time ago from Williams-Sonoma, if I remember correctly.
So there, this is what I do when I have some egg yolks left over and have cream. As a closing bit of trivia, I wanted to share that I first learned about Crème Brûlée from the movie My Best Friend’s Wedding. There is a scene where Julia Roberts’ character is talking to her love interest’s fiance (Cameron Diaz) and she compares the guy’s calling off the wedding to ordering Crème Brûlée and changing his mind for Jell-O. In this scenario, Cameron is Crème Brûlée and Julia is Jell-O.