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This Creme Brulee recipe had to be easy and simple for one reason: it’s the only way mom’s going to make it.
Once when I was younger and my mom was still working through her bachelor’s degree, we stopped to eat at a Macaroni Grill. We were on the way back from a road trip to her college where the low-residency program in which she was enrolled required physical attendance for major exams. Creme Brulee is my mom’s favorite dessert, so when the waiter placed one dish with a slightly burnt caramel on top of a creamy custard, I assumed the other would be on its way as soon as mom returned from the restroom.
By the time she returned from the bathroom, dessert was gone.
“You didn’t leave any for me?”
“You didn’t order two?”
She cried and said it was fine and we left, but I still sometimes feel bad, even 20 years later.
With my mom’s birthday coming up, and the warm flavors of fall beckoning from the tail-end of this summer, I figure Creme Brulee is in order.
Luckily, it’s one of the easiest desserts to whip together and is perhaps the only dessert in the kitchen that even the least experienced pantry cooks can manage without too much timidity.
Essentially, creme brulee is a custard topped with caramelized (bruleed) sugar. While a custard may seem intimidating, they are fairly simple if only requiring some small measure of patience and consideration for temperature. Cream heated too quickly froths, scalds, and curdles. Eggs heated too quickly scramble. The goal of this custard is homogeneity and, of course, delicious flavor. So we heat the mixture in a double boiler or bring it up slowly in the oven.
First, we’ll make the custard and set aside 4 oven-safe ramekins.
I like a good 2-2 & 2 recipe:
2 egg yolks
2 cups milk, cream, or some blend of both. I like milk over heavy cream, although heavy cream is richer in flavor. Heavy cream will offer a silkier texture and may need a slightly higher temperature adjustment. Just be sure to use full fat, whichever your choice.
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean or tsp vanilla extract
Method 1: Low & Slow (1 1/2 hours)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
If a double boiler is intimidating to you, I’d recommend this method. It requires very little attention.
Mix eggs and egg yolks with sugar.
Add cream and incorporate slowly..
Add vanilla and salt.
Mix all ingredients cold until smooth.
Pour into ramekins.
Put ramekins in a roasting pan and fill the pan with very hot or boiling water until water reaches about 1/2-3/4 of the way to the top of ramekin.
Bake for 1 hr or until custard shows no more transparency in center. Custard should jiggle but maintain a firm shape
Method 2: Double Boiler (Shortens cook time)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
If you feel comfortable, with heat bring the cream to a low simmer in a saucepan, just to the point where it’s about steaming.
Whisk until cream and eggs are incorporated into a viscous mixture and pour into ramekins.
Put ramekins in roasting pan and fill pan with hot water halfway up ramekins.
Bake at 325 degrees F for 20-45 mins or until custard is no longer wet/transparent.
For both methods, let custard cool before putting in fridge to set, otherwise the rapid transference of hot to cold will cause the custard to crack or break. Set 1 hour or overnight. The flavor of the vanilla will deepen overnight.
THE RULE BRULEE
For the Brulee, a regular butane torch like the one pictured here will do.
Fine sugar and making sure you move your torch in circles will help to ensure you don’t burn the sugar.
Layer the sugar evenly and don’t be afraid to do two or three layers.
The rule of the brulee is to move the torch back and forth and be patient!
Macerated strawberries is just a fancy way to say strawberries that have been cut up, coated in sugar and a little lemon juice, and left to sit while the rest of the dish is worked.
Top with a sprig of mint once cooled.