4.20.2019

Burnt. Cream.

Doesn’t sound very appetizing, does it?

But, in essence, that is the translation of the beloved dessert, Crème Brûlée.

I like to think of Crème Brûlée as a culinary blank canvas. Vanilla is traditional, but make them with lavender, orange, rose, or saffron, and the culinary color of this custard changes completely.

Today, I am giving you my basic version for six people. You can change the flavor by replacing the vanilla bean with an extract or flavoring of your choice.

The above-mentioned lavender, orange, rose, and saffron are some of my favorites, but ginger, spearmint, coconut, lemon, and lime can make for some exotic versions.

Each flavoring has different strengths so it may take a few tries to find the perfect amount of extract for each... but won't it be fun testing all these variations? (Hint: I would start with 1/2 teaspoon.)

It’s so simple to make, and so elegant to serve. Why not try it this week?

~ David

Vanilla Crème Brûlée

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
8 large egg yolks
2 cups whipping cream
6 teaspoons superfine sugar
6 fresh strawberries, for garnish, optional 


Preheat oven to 325°F. Set a tea kettle, full of water, to boil.

Put 1/2 cup granulated sugar into a medium bowl and add the scraped seeds from the vanilla bean. Using your fingers, mix the bean into the sugar. This will help to avoid clumps of vanilla, and will make your fingers smell fabulous! 


Add the egg yolks and whisk to blend, then gradually whisk in cream. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a spouted bowl or pitcher - this will make it easier to fill the ramekins. Divide mixture among six 1/2-cup ramekins. Arrange ramekins in 13-inch by 9-inch by 2-inch baking pan. Pour enough boiling water form the tea kettle into the pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins. (I find it a little hard to pour boiling water between the ramekins without getting water into at least one of the custards! To make this a bit easier, I remove one ramekin from the baking pan, pour in the water from the tea kettle, and then put the ramekin back in.)

Bake custards until set in center, about 40-45 minutes (time will vary with diameter of ramekins and depth to which you filled them). Check at 40 minutes: they should jiggle slightly when they are done. Place pan on a work surface, and let the custards cool, still standing in the water, for an hour. Remove from water; chill overnight. (Cover after first 30 minutes of chilling so they don’t absorb refrigerator smells).

Preheat broiler and set the rack 4-5 inches away from the element. Sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar atop each custard; swirl and tilt each ramekin to make an even coating of sugar. Place dishes on a baking sheet. Broil until sugar caramelizes, rotating sheet often for even browning, about 3-5 minutes. (If you have a torch, you can use it, but the mini torches don’t brûlée evenly, so I sometimes start them in the broiler and finish them with the torch.)

Chill until topping hardens, at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours. Garnish with sliced strawberries.

Serves 6.

Notes: 
- The custards can be made up to two days in advance and kept covered and refrigerated.
- Make sure they are cool before covering them in the fridge. If you cover them too soon, condensation will form, making the custard tops damp, which will make it difficult for the sugar to caramelize. 
- If you are going to use dried herbs and spices to flavor the custard, start by placing them in a small saucepan with the cream. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then remove from the heat, cover, and let steep for at least 10-15 minutes to infuse the cream. Strain, cool completely, then continue with the recipe.

38 comments:

  1. David, your posts are always so inspiring. I’ll share a Mary Berry tip for the sugar topping. Melt all of the sugar for your topping in a saucepan, let it become a caramel color, pour out into a cookie sheet to cool. Break up the pieces of hardened sugar and blitz them back to a powder in the food processor. Now you have a sugar that should melt and caramelize easily under the broiler because it’s half way there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is a fun tip, Lois, but - I dare to say - so few of us have time to do all that. I have been working on my torch skills and have gotten pretty good! By the way, some recipes recommend using brown sugar and I find that doesn't work at all.

      Delete
  2. Somethings, or many things are better in French!

    ReplyDelete
  3. One of the few desserts I cannot resist and learnt to make way back. Am an absolute bore as I like the classic flavouring also . . . but time has perfected my torching skills and I rather like that part of the preparation :) ! Our Easter will soon be at an end . . . perchance shall find some time in the morrow . . .meanwhile hope you and yours are enjoying the Long Weekend . . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Classic is never boring, Eha! I have been enjoying getting to know my torch these past weeks...

      I hope you had a lovely Easter!

      Delete
  4. David, crème brulee is one of my favorites that I somehow haven't had in years. I'll have to try some of your flavor variations. A rose and saffron one sounds so exotic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rose and saffron together with some vanilla and a pinch of cinnamon is pretty exquisite, Kelly!

      Delete
  5. One of my favorite desserts of all time, and this one looks perfectly done. I love that you mix the vanilla beans directly into the sugar. How delicious -- I'd add a spoonful of that to my coffee. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I found that really most vanilla seeds tend to clump, Valentina, so mixing them in with your fingertips incorporates them well! We always put the pods (after being scraped) into our sugar bowl. It make for lovely vanilla sugar!

      Delete
  6. hi david
    i do love a good creme brulee; sadly they are often not done very well. nothing worse than a weirdly warm custard under that crackly top:-) i'm sure yours is delicious. cheers sherry

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you, Sherry - the custard must be perfectly chilled and the sugar must have a good “crack” to it!

      Delete
  7. I've eaten green tea, chocolate and coffee versions of this divine dessert, but the classic vanilla trumps them all. I adore it! I do love a bit of torching action, too, but every time I make them I swear to buy a proper commercial torch. The one I have is useless!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I want to buy a commercial torch, too, John! It would be so much easier! And, yes, the classic is the classic for a good reason!

      Delete
  8. I've had good luck with Mary Berry's recipe for this, though we just torch the sugar on top without the challenging preparation beforehand. Did they ever do this one on the Great British Baking Show?

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mae - I don’t know if it was on the show or not... But torching on top is just fine with me!

      Delete
  9. THere's nothing like creme brûlée, David, in any variation! Happily I finally got my torch--my broiler brûlée never came out quite as even as yours (and I'm loving browning meringue too :) )

    But sure glad they kept the name French...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Broilers can work well, Inger, but you really need to work at it! So glad you got the torch!

      Delete
  10. I love creme brûlée and I have to try your recipe. I would use vanilla for the flavor. Thanks for the recipe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Simple and perfect - that is vanilla Crème Brûlée, Gerlinde!

      Delete
  11. Prefer your choice of lavender, orange, rose, and saffron, definitely. Funny thing is that I purchased a torch few days ago and this one is perfect occasion to get the skill of using it....Thank you and enjoy the day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Davorka! I like the classic as well as the exotic... it all depends on what I am serving for dinner. Of Persian or Middle Eastern, I definitely reach for the exotic flavors.

      Delete
  12. David, creme brulee is one of the few desserts that break down my resistance. Funny you called it burnt cream. In my son's early cheffing days he cooked at a very small cafe that served a dessert (creme brulee) they called Burnt Cream with Berries. Great post, great dessert, and grand tutorial.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that your son’s café called it burnt cream... when actually the cream is not burnt but the sugar. (And this is only occurring to me now that the post is written!) I am making it a lot these days because it is so darned easy. Which is, for my waistline, unfortunate.

      Delete
  13. Yum, nothing better than Crème Brûlée! I'll have to take up your suggestion and experiment with some other flavors. As I noted in one of my previous posts, nothing works for me except the larger torches that you buy at Home Depot, etc. I'm normally afraid of fiery things, but those torches work well!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nothing like the right tools to make things work, right? Let me know what flavors you try, Fran!

      Delete
  14. I never thought about it, but burnt cream really is the direct translation, isn't it? Fun fact. :-) I haven't made this dish in ages -- of course you have me craving it. I find those mini torches to be useless. I just got one of those blue propane jobs from my local big box hardware store, and use that. Works really well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The mini torches have so little control, John - rendering them, as you so perfectly said, useless.

      Delete
  15. Dear David, of course, you are absolutely right 'why not try the recipe this week' - I couldn't agree with you more!!! Thank you for your continued culinary inspirations! Another great recipe from you!
    Hope you and Mark spent a wonderful Easter!
    Liebe Grüße aus Bonn!
    Anadrea

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, dear Andrea - I loved crème brûlée as a child because you got to break the top and find the creamy pudding inside - do your girls like it?

      Delete
  16. Burnt cream are among the most exquisite French desserts! I'm just drooling :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is so true, Romain - yet they are so simple to make, once again proving that incredible food doesn't need to be difficult!

      Delete
  17. David, creme brulee is one of my favorite things to eat, but I've never made it at home. I'm feeling inspired to try it out with your recipe! Thank you! xoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't believe it is one of your favorites and you haven't ever tried it! NOPW is the time, Marcelle!

      Delete
  18. Like many of your readers wrote, this is one of my favorite recipes and I really prefer the original vanilla version (as you have here!).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Classic is always in vogue, isn’t it? Makes me think of Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn.

      Delete
  19. A really good crème brûlée is swoon-worthy! I always love to see specks of vanilla bean in mine, and so I'm SURE I'd swoon over yours, David!

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

If you would like to receive follow-up comments, simply click the "Subscribe by E-mail" link to the right of the "Publish" and "Preview" buttons.