Cooking with Alison

Favourite Crème Brûlée Recipe

In Other Desserts on May 29, 2012 at pm

I love the crunchy, torched sugar topping of crème brûlée.  Although crème brûlée is one of my favourite desserts, I only eat the custard part because I don’t want to feel guilty about wasting food.  I used to order crème brûlée more often than any other dessert at restaurants, but that changed when I discovered this recipe.  My family and I love this recipe, even though we don’t normally like custardy desserts. The texture of the custard is just right, in my opinion; it’s creamy without being heavy or too rich, and it’s soft and jiggly without being runny or too pudding-y.

I made these in disposable aluminum tart pans for my sister to take to work for her lunch club.  One of her friends liked it so much that she used her finger to get the remaining custard out of the pan.  This dessert is classy enough to serve at any occasion and it can be made a day or two in advance.

Crème Brûlée Recipe

adapted from Le Cirque restaurant, original recipe posted here

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 1 tsp vanilla extract (Note:  I used Mexican vanilla extract)

pinch salt

4 large egg yolks at room temperature

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar

extra sugar for the topping (approx. 1 tbsp per custard; use granulated white sugar or cane sugar or turbinado sugar)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  Bring a kettle of water to a boil over high heat.  Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pot, cook the cream with the vanilla bean (if using) and salt over medium to medium-high heat until the surface begins to shimmer and tiny bubbles are just starting to form.  Do not allow it to boil.  The cream should be very warm to the touch but not uncomfortably hot.  Stir in the vanilla extract (if using).  Taste the cream and add more vanilla extract to taste if desired.  Meanwhile, in a large heatproof bowl, use a wooden spoon to stir together the egg yolks and granulated white sugar until well blended.  Then very gradually stir in a thin stream of the hot cream mixture.  Mix gently but quickly enough to prevent the eggs from cooking.  Strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a large, heatproof, lipped measuring cup or bowl.

Arrange 8 to 12 shallow ramekins or 4 1/2 inch (approx.) wide aluminum tart pans in a roasting pan.  Divide the mixture evenly amongst your ramekins.  I prefer very shallow custards, so mine were less than 1 inch thick.  Set the roasting pan in the centre of the preheated oven and carefully pour hot water into the roasting pan around the ramekins.  The water should reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Cover the pan very loosely with aluminum foil and bake until the custards are firm at the edges, but still a bit wobbly in the centre, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack to cool completely.  Cover with aluminum foil, but don’t allow the aluminum foil to touch the top of the custard.  Refrigerate until chilled through.

Prior to serving, use a paper towel to blot away any condensation on the surface of the custards.  Sprinkle 1 tbsp of sugar evenly across the surface of each custard.  Use a kitchen torch (following the manufacturer’s instructions carefully) to caramelise the sugar until melted, browned, and crispy.  Alternatively, you could caramelise the sugar topping in the oven under the broiler.  The instructions from the original recipe are as follows:  Preheat the broiler. Set the ramekins on a baking sheet and blot the surfaces of the custards to remove any condensation. Using a small sieve, sift 2 teaspoons of the turbinado sugar over each custard in a thin, even layer. Broil the custards as close to the heat as possible until the sugar is evenly caramelized, 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve at once.


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