Simple Creme Brûlée

I was almost thirty years old before ever experiencing creme brûlée; I vividly remember all the details of that introduction!  I didn’t realize I could make it myself (and maybe it would have been better had I stayed ignorant) until my friend, Jennifer Ann, taught me.  She made friends with the cook at a fancy restaurant in Southern California where she waitressed and he taught her how to make her favorite desserts.  It’s a sweet “pay it forward” sort of movement:)  Much better than buying someones coffee in my opinion!

This dessert is posh, but the ingredients are few and simple- just requires a little bit of technique.  Don’t be intimidated- give it a try and impress yourself:)

1 quart heaving whipping cream (no substitutes- this is what makes it so luxurious)

1 cup sugar

7 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla

fruit for bottom or coffee for infusion if you want flavored creme brûlée* see notes

this recipe makes 9

creme brûlée baking in a hot water bath
  1.  Preheat oven to 325
  2. beat 1/2 cup of sugar into egg yolks and vanilla until creamy
  3. Pour whipping cream into sauce pan and slowly heat while stirring till almost to a boil
  4. slowly stir the hot cream into beaten yolks (this tempers the eggs and keeps them from suddenly cooking and becoming scrambled eggs)
  5. Pour 1/2 cup into each ramekin (or any small, oven proof dish.  Tiny bowls work best.  We find them at Goodwill all the time)
  6. Place ramekins in a large cake or roasting pan and pour boiling water half way up the sides of the ramekins. This controls the heat and keeps cream from curdling.  The hot bath method is also a great trick for baking cheesecakes.
  7. Bake 30-45 minutes, just until set but still slightly jiggly  in the middle.  Time differs depending on size of ramekin and amount of cream in each one.
  8. Pull out of water bath, cool and place in fridge at least 4 hours before next step
  9. This is the fun part.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon coarse sugar on top of each bowl and using a torch (there are special kitchen torches for this.  I began with my husbands blow torch- it works much faster but you need to be careful!)  melt/caramelize the sugar.  Be careful to not burn the sugar- stop when slightly browned.  If you want to pass on the propane and fire, just broil the sugar about 8 inches from the heat.  Broiling is easier (once again- pay attention) but it also heats the custard up and needs a few hours back in the fridge to firm back up.  So plan ahead.

* Coffee Cream Brulee is by far the most popular in our house.  Add 1/3 cup coffee grounds to the cream while it is heating up.  Strain the coffee out before adding to egg yolk/sugar mixture.

*for gourmet vanilla, scrape a vanilla bean and simmer in the cream mixture, straining out before adding to egg yolk/sugar mixture

*for blueberry , mango or strawberry, add 2 TBSP berries to bottom of each dish before pouring cream over

*my personal favorite is lemon.  Grate the zest of a lemon (or orange) into the cream, simmer and strain before adding to egg yolk/sugar mixture.

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