Just Dessert

Valentine’s Day Ideas: Creme Brulee

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Okay, this could be considered cheating, since I’ve already posted the recipe before, but this time I’ve made it in a smaller batch, and – best of all – I took pictures.  So now you’ll REALLY want to make it.

And honestly – it’s one of the easiest things in the world to make.  Really.

AND – it’s a good choice for any sort of special occasion dessert because the texture is smooth and rich and creamy and silky – in delightful contrast to the brittle sugar surface.

You’ll need a few things – about 6 4-oz ramekins,

a baking pan or cake pan big enough to hold all the ramekins with at least an inch between each one, and a little butane torch.  The one I have is similar to the one pictured here

Why ramekins?  Why not just some other little bowls or dishes?  It’s because those little ridges around the sides of the ramekins help distribute the heat of the water bath (or bain marie) more efficiently and enable you to cook the custard thoroughly.  Cooking in a water bath is a more delicate method than, say, just roasting something in the oven or cooking it in a pot on top of the stove.  It also keeps the custard from drying out during the cooking process.

Okay.  For the batch you’ll see in the photos, here are the ingredients and measurements: 

3 oz egg yolks (about 5 yolks from large eggs)

1  1/2 oz granulated sugar

vanilla extract to taste (1/2 – 1 tsp should be enough)

1 pound (a pint) of heavy cream

(and additional granulated sugar for later)

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, and place a rack in the middle of the oven.

First – whisk together the yolks and the sugar

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Then add in the vanilla…

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And the heavy cream.  (By the way – there is no difference between "whipping cream" and "heavy cream" – they are the same thing.)

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Strain the mixture and remove any foam on top.  Pour into your ramekins.  You want an equal amount in each one.  So if, like me, you are a little heavy-handed with the first one or two, you may only need 5 ramekins instead of 6.

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And place the ramekins in your cake pan.  Pour water in til it reaches about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  You can either do this before you place the pan in the oven or after – depending on what you feel most comfortable doing.

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Bake the custard until it has set, but there is still a little wiggle in the center if you jiggle the cake pan.

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Remove the pan from the oven (Careful!  That water is hot!!) and then remove the ramekins from the water bath and place on a rack to cool.

When cooled to room temp, place them in the fridge and chill them completely – overnight is best.

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While that’s chilling, just wanted to say you can feel free to use another flavoring instead of vanilla if you wish.  And of course there are plenty of other creme brulee options – chocolate would seem the obvious choice for Valentine’s day, and that’s fine if that’s what you want.  But to me, this version – just a little vanilla – is the best.  You don’t need chocolate or something else distracting you from the silky rich flavor and texture.  Just my opinion, of course. 

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Okay, the ramekins have been in your fridge overnight, and you’re ready to play with fire.

First – sprinkle a layer of granulated sugar on the surface of one of your custards.  Not too thin a layer, not too thick.  Swirl the sugar around gently to cover evenly.

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Now – fire up your torch and carefully cook the sugar – move the flame back and forth across the sugar – if you leave it in any one spot too long, you won’t have Creme Brulee, you’ll have Creme Blackened.  Some brown is okay, but you don’t want it really really dark.

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And once that’s done, you’re ready to serve.  Or, you can put it back in the fridge for a few more hours, depending on what your time constraints are.  However, if you leave it in the fridge, the moisture in there could soften the bruleed sugar, and you’ll need to get the torch out again before serving so you get that nice candy-like surface.

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Want to try some?

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You know, just to see how it tastes?

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Of course you do.

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