Crème brûlée has been one of my favorite dessert since I was first served it in a restaurant many years ago. I love the slight crunch of the sweet caramelized sugar as it touches my tongue. Followed by the slightly sweet and creamy custard that finishes off the explosion of flavors. How can you not love a dessert that was featured in a cookbook published in 1691? French chef François Massialot who published the cookbook worked in the royal kitchens. Crème brûlée was one of the featured desserts in the world’s first alphabetical recipe listed cookbook titled, Le Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeoise (article). I bow to chef Massialot for sharing this wonderfully tasty, yet easy to make dessert. Instead of cake on my birthday I set out on a mission to make the perfect dessert: Crème brûlée.
The ingredients for the recipe are very simple.
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/2 Tsp of vanilla
- 2 Tsp of brown sugar
- 2 1/2 of heavy cream
- 6 Tbs of sugar
- Torch ( available at on Amazon or Bed Bath & Beyond)
- 4 ramekins
Put the oven at 325° F (160° C) and as the oven preheats you can start making the custard for baking. First put the heavy cream with the vanilla on the stove on low heat. There is no need to stir it, but you don’t want the cream to boil over, so keep a close eye on the cream. You will know it’s ready when there is a thin skin formed over the cream. Beat the egg yolks and sugar together with a whisk. By this time the cream should be ready to pour in. This is where you need to be careful because the heated cream poured in too fast can result in cooking the eggs. This is what you don’t want to happen. You’ll want to pour only a small amount in as you continue to whisk. This in the cooking world is called, tempering. The pouring of cream slowly and continual whisking helps the cream’s heat to disperse evenly. When you’ve poured all the cream in you will have a creamy pale yellow liquid.
Now comes the fun part! Get a cake pan to put the ramekins in and distribute the custard evenly. If there are bubbles in the batter just use the torch heat to lightly go over it and the bubbles will disappear. You don’t want air bubbles in your crème brûlée. The bubbles will cause the custard cook unevenly or may come out runny. Another thing that helps the custards cook nicely is another cooking term called, a “water bath“, which means that the food cooking needs a moist cooking environment. Pour water into the cake pan about half way up the ramekins. Carefully transport the pan to the oven (make sure that water does not get into the ramekins) and cook custard for around 30 to 40 minutes or until the custard has a wobbly feel (like jello) when you shake the ramekins a little. If all is well let custard cool for another hour, or for a faster cool down you can put the ramekins in the refrigerator.
Once the custard has cooled sprinkle the brown sugar on top evenly (add more sugar to caramelize of you prefer a thicker crust). Then take the torch and move over sugar lightly in a sweeping motion. You will be able to see (and smell) the sugar caramelizing. After running the torch over once wait about 2 or 3 minutes before torching the sugar again. The rest time in between torching gives the sugar time to harden (that’s the yummy part). Let the dessert sit for another 15 minutes. You will know it’s ready to eat because when you tap the caramelized sugar with the flat of the spoon it will be hard but brittle.
So now that it’s all done dig in and enjoy that wonderful taste first introduced in a French Royal court. Bon Appétit.