Easier Than You Think

The origins of Creme Brulee? Who knows. It is generally believed, though, that a college kitchen in England made the recipe of Burnt Cream famous, with the graduates spreading the word of this custard after graduating. Regardless of its’ heritage, here are a couple of tips to remember when making this very easy custard.

When you separate the eggs, make sure to remove all traces of the egg white. Even a few drops of white in the yolks can produce a lumpy rather than smooth custard, much like tapioca, which defeats the true purpose of enjoying Creme Brulee.
Use a heavy pan and cook over low heat. Some recipes suggest cooking the custard in a water bath. Either method is acceptable.
Want a Creme Brulee recipe that has a thick, very crisp topping without using a blow torch or broiler? Make your own caramel topping! Omit the sugar topping and browning and about an hour before serving, (after having baked the custard) make the caramelhere’s how. Place the 3/4 c. sugar in a heavy saucepan, then place the pan over low heat to dissolve the sugar gently and caramelize it (to get all the sugar to melt, just shake and tilt the pan from side to side, but don’t stir). When all the sugar has dissolved and you have a dark syrup (about 12-15 minutes), remove the pan from the heat and pour immediately over the custards, covering the surface of each one. Now just leave them for a few minutes for the caramel to harden.
Before eating the crème brûlée, tap the surface of the caramel with a spoon to crack and break it up. To remove any hardened caramel from your pan, fill it with hot water and bring it to the boil.

Creme Brulee
This is the Creme Brulee that is makes this dessert a thing of beauty and awe. Creaminess hiding under crisp sweetness.

8 egg yolks
1/3 c. sugar
2 c. heavy cream
1 t. pure vanilla extract*
1/4 c. brown sugar (for the caramelized tops)

Preheat oven to 300º F. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Add cream and vanilla, and continue to whisk until well blended.  Skim off any bubbles or foam.

Divide mixture among 6 ramekins or custard cups. Place ramekins in a water bath (large pan filled with 1 or 2 inches of hot water) and bake until set around the edges, but still loose in the center, about 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and leave in the water bath until cooled, about an hour. Remove cups from water bath and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days.
When ready to serve, sprinkle about 2 t. brown sugar over each custard. For best results, use a small, hand-held torch to melt sugar. If you don’t have a torch, place under the broiler until sugar melts. Re-chill custards for a few minutes before serving.

*Vanilla extract is the only way to go for this dessert, and you won’t hear me say that very often. By using pure vanilla extract(instead of doubling the amount with imitation) you can be assured that the Creme Brulee will come out percect, not runny. It also imparts the perfect vanilla flavor.

Want a robust alternative? Try:

Creamy Peanut Butter Creme Brulees.

Reduce 2 c. heavy cream to 1 c. Heat 1 c. whole milk until hot. Add 3 T. creamy peanut butter(not all natural, it is too oily) and whisk until smooth. Add to bowl containing the egg yolk mixture, after skimming off bubbles and foam and follow the remainder of the instructions.