Category Archives: Crème Brûlée

How to Make Crème Brûlée

My favorite crème brûlée is a very pain one, with just half a teaspoon of vanilla extract added. After that, it’s crème brûlée scented with orange, like this one right here. Like an English pudding, crème brûlée somehow manages to pull off a sense of grandeur while still being an incredibly simple thing to prepare. Among its many virtues, it’ll keep for several days in the fridge, making it an ideal dessert to serve at a dinner party. You simply pop them out of the fridge, caramelize the tops and you’re good to go.

Start by preheating your oven to 325 and setting a pan of water on the stove to simmer. Next, infuse your cream. Put half a pint of cream in a small saucepan along with the rind of half an orange and half a teaspoon of vanilla extract (this recipe can be doubled if you like). Bring the mixture to a simmer and set it aside.

Add your sugar to your egg yolks…

…and whisk until light in color.

Strain the warm — now orange-scented — cream into the egg and sugar mixture…

…and whisk until the sugar is melted.

Now all there is to do is ladle the mixture into your ramekins. I’ve got mine sitting in a roasting pan here, but you can use a baking dish too.

Put the roasting pan on a low rack in the oven, then add enough simmering water to come half way up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake about half an hour, until the custard is set (when you move the ramekin it should jiggle, not slosh). Let the custards cool, then put them in the refrigerator for a minimum of four hours, ideally overnight. When you’re ready to serve them, spinkle about a tablespoon of granulated sugar onto the top of each custard. Oops…I sort of overdid it here. Oh well, no biggie.

Now, apply the heat. As luck would have it, I ran out of propane about half a second after this picture was snapped. Not having a salamander handy, I went with the other, other option: the broiler. It works just fine, though you want to take care to get the sugared custard as close to the heat source as you reasonably can. You want a lot of heat delivered quickly, so as to caramelize the sugar without cooking — and breaking — the custard. More time in the broiler means a greater chance of curdling — so blast the suckers and get’em out of there.

Once you’ve got a nice brown top, let them sit for five minutes so the molten sugar hardens. Plate, garnish and serve.

Oh yeah, that’s the stuff.

UPDATE: Chef Mike C. adds:

My Banquets & Catering chef at the CIA would always sprinkle an initial layer of sugar onto his brulees as soon as they came out of the oven. This way, that sugar would melt and fill in the little pits or uneven bits on the surface. That way, he said, when you put another layer of sugar on top when they were all cooled, you would have a perfectly smooth, glass-like layer of caramelized sugar.

Another chef I worked with in California used brown sugar instead of granulated sugar. I don’t remember them having an exceptional crunch (maybe because of the molasses?), but the flavor on them was great.

Thanks Mike!

Filed under:  Crème Brûlée, Desserts & Cookies | 2 Comments

Basic Crème Brûlée Formula

There’s a lot of tittering going on in elite pastry circles about crème brûlée these days. Just like molten chocolate cake, it’s an item most restaurants put on their menus solely out of obligation — something for country rubes and tourists who want to feel sophisticated dining in the big city. Right this very minute snotty waiters all over Manhattan are traipsing back to the kitchen with their dessert orders, muttering to themselves. I’ll be right back with that, Mr. Clampett.

But me, I never get sick of crème brûlée, NEVER. It’s just too simple, too perfect. Add a little vanilla, a pinch of cinnamon, maybe a couple gratings of nutmeg and I’m a stone-cold goner. So snicker away, Helmut, I’ll remember you in silky burnt cream paradise.

What follows is a basic formula for a light crème brûlée. It has just enough egg yolk to hold the sugar and cream together, and not much more. It can be enjoyed plain, but makes an elegant medium for just about any flavor you’d care to infuse into it. It will accommodate a couple of tablespoons of liqueur, citrus zest or instant coffee. You can add up to 1/4 cup of thicker ingredients like pumpkin, mango or passion fruit pulp, melted chocolate or peanut butter, but you’ll want to fortify the custard with two more yolks in that case.

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, set a small saucepan of water (or a teapot) over low heat.

Pour the cream into a small saucepan, along with any flavoring you’d care to infuse (vanilla, cinnamon stick, citrus peel) and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Immediately remove the cream from the heat and allow it to steep for 10-20 minutes, then strain through a fine sieve.

Meanwhile, whisk the sugar and yolks together in a medium bowl until they’re light in color. Add the cream in a steady stream, whisking all the while. Pour the mixture into four 6-ounce ramekins. Place the ramekins into a roasting pan or baking dish.

When ready to bake, put on an oven mitt and open the oven door. Slide a middle rack half way out and gently place the baking dish containing the ramekins on it. Carefully pour in enough hot water to come half way up the sides of the ramekins. Slide the rack back into the oven and close the door.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the custard is just set (firm but slightly jiggly in the middle). Cool on a wire rack, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or up to three days.

Half an hour before you want to serve, remove the ramekins from the refrigerator. Take off the plastic wrap and spread a healthy tablespoon of sugar evenly over the top of each custard. Using a salamander or a blow torch, melt and lightly brown the sugar. Let the crème brûlée sit for 5 minutes, and serve.

Filed under:  Crème Brûlée, Desserts & Cookies | 10 Comments