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Classic Creme Brulee

There are few things that feel as complex as they are simple as a creamy, sugar-glassed topped creme brûlée; its crackled top giving way just enough to spoon up a silky custard. The secret to this deceptively simple dessert is keeping the yolks in constant motion once you start adding your hot liquid. Tempering the eggs with a slow, steady stream of warm milk while in constant whisking motion will ensure that the yolks won’t curdle. You’ll find recipes that have you caramelizing the tops under the broiler, but this method leads to curdled eggs. Get yourself a good torch (not a $40 gourmet one, but a good old butane one like this) for this and epic s’mores sessions.

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Custards like creme brulee are baked in ramekins that nest inside a water bath. Our preferred method is to use a cake pan or roasting pan that will fit all your ramekins with at least a 1/2″ of space between them. Taller ramekins (at least 2″ tall) are better than shallow ones and keep water from spilling into the custard. Don’t have any ramekins? Grab your favorite mugs. No matter the vessel, make sure you don’t add more than 1-1/2″ of custard to ensure that your custard bakes evenly. Whatever you do, use the best quality cream you can. Whipping cream has far less fat than heavy cream, so stick with a great, high-fat content cream like Humboldt for the riches, creamiest result.

 

Ingredients

Classic Creme Brûlée

3 Tbsps Sugar
pinch Salt
1-1/4 cups Heavy cream
3 Large or XL egg yolks
1 tsp Vanilla extract or seeds from 1/4 of a vanilla bean

Directions

  1. Test the water level of a roasting pan by placing your ramekins inside and filling the pan with water until it reaches 3/4 of the way up the sides of each cup. Remove the ramekins and place the roasting pan in the oven, turning it to 325F to the water preheat with the oven.
  2. Bring the cream, half the sugar, vanilla bean and seeds and the pinch of salt to a simmer while stirring. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks and remaining sugar until lighter in color (about one minute). Slowly pour in a third of the warmed cream while whisking. Add in, still whisking, the remaining cream mixture.
  4. Pour the custard into the ramekins (using a ladle or liquid measuring cup with a spout is very helpful).
  5. Place ramekins gently into the roasting pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until just set in the center (sort of like just-setting Jello). Remove the ramekins from the pan immediately and allow them to cool. Chill for several hours (listen, we know this can be tough; you can get started on torching after 20 minutes of cooling if the custard is calling your name).
  6. Sprinkle a thin layer of sugar over the custard and torch until nearly burnt (a dark amber honey color is best). Wait a few minutes for the caramel to harden. Crack with a spoon and enjoy your silky smooth custard!