Today I want to share with you the recipe of a popular French dessert: crème brûlée. It is one of those dishes that should be in every food lover cookbook as it is a classic, simple yet sophisticated dish that pleases everyone. I personally love it and it is one of my husband’s weaknesses. I make it often when I have egg yolks left over from other recipes (like macarons or pavlovas), but I usually make a “lighter” version with coconut cream and/or fruits like my Passion fruit and Coconut Crème Brûlée. This time instead I decided to “conquer” the traditional crème brûlée. And it was a conquest indeed. I must admit it took me a few tries to get this recipe right. In fact, while the recipe itself is quite easy, the baking part of it gave me tons of problems: my crème brûlées would either separate and curdle or not set! I tried different methods and different cooking times and temperatures until I stumbled upon a recipe that suggested to cook the cream on the stove for a couple of minutes before popping it into the oven… and this method did the trick. Besides, it also helped to distribute the vanilla seeds evenly so they didn’t sink to the bottom of the ramekins and it shortened the baking time. I was very pleased with the results and it is definitely a recipe I will be making again and again… Enjoy and bon appétit!
Ingredients (for 6 persons):
6 egg yolks
500 ml – 2 cups heavy cream or thickened cream
100 gms – ½ cup sugar
1 vanilla pod
6 tbsp Demerara or brown sugar for the top
Halve the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds out with the back of a knife. Put the vanilla seeds in a mixing bowl and put the vanilla bean in a saucepan with the cream. Scold the cream over medium heat, then put the fire off and keep it aside.
Whisk the egg yolks, vanilla seeds and the sugar in a bowl for a couple of minutes or until pale. Discard the vanilla pod from the warm cream and pour it over the egg yolk mixture, continuing to whisk until well combined. NOTE: I suggest you do the whisking by hand and not with an electric mixer as this will help you to get a smoother mixture with very little or no foam/bubbles which is very important when you bake the cream.
Strain the mixture and put it back in a saucepan. Cook it for a couple of minutes on low flame until the cream coats the back of a spoon. NOTE: I found this step to be fundamental. Quickly cooking the cream on the stove has 3 benefits: it dissolves any little foam you may have in the mixture, it helps distribute the vanilla seeds evenly so they won’t sink to the bottom of the ramekins and it shortens the baking time, which is a plus. I also find that it stabilises the mixture and it helps it set without the risk of separating and/or curdling in the oven.
Place 6 ramekins in a deep roasting pan lined with a folded tea towel. Divide the cream evenly into the ramekins. Pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. NOTE: if you see any more foam or bubbles you can pop them by quickly running the blowtorch on the top of the cream before you put it in the oven.
Bake, uncovered, in a pre heated oven at 150°C – 302°F for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cream has just set but is still a bit wobbly. Remove the ramekins from the water and keep them aside to cool down. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Sprinkle the Demerara or brown sugar evenly on the top of the crèmes brûlées and melt it either with a blowtorch or by putting the ramekins under the grill. When the sugar becomes caramel brown they are ready.