Sarah Kenney sends her husband to the hardware store, and then goes about making the perfect Crème Brûlée.
Text And Photo By Sarah Kenney
Isn’t everyone always intimidated by the thought of making crème brulée at home? Or, even saying the name with the adept rolling of the “r’s” ? C”rrrrrr”ème B”rrrrrr” ulée. There. Doesn’t that just make an already perfect dessert even more haute cuisine?
When I see this on a restaurant menu, there is no doubt what my dessert order will be. The first tap tap of the spoon on that sugary coating makes me feel like a little girl anticipating the first peek inside a wrapped gift. Or, better yet, perhaps its like the final wallop that breaks open the pinata and all the treats reveal themselves; the sprinkling to the ground of such goodness bringing endless delight. My, my, my but my mind does wander… see what the dessert does to me?
Let me begin by unraveling this dreamy journey and perhaps some of you out there will delight yourselves and some lucky guests with this creamy, luscious, sensational dessert.
Now, on to the addition of the beloved vanilla bean. Remember my article about Canino’s Market here in Houston, Texas? Well, I am still basking in my vanilla bean bonanza find. Buckets I tell you…of vanilla beans. It was a beautiful sight that made my heart go pitter-patter. My husband need not worry about my ever having a love affair with another man. However, I certainly have developed an affair with this most exotic flower stamen – the vanilla bean!
This dessert is amazingly simple and elegant. Undoubtedly it is high in calories but for special occasions, it can be…just that…special! One wonderful tidbit about making crème brulée is that it can be made ahead. The custard filling can easily be cooked in the oven, each in their own ramekin and then refrigerated several days ahead of time.
Just before serving, sprinkle each pot de creme with sugar, torch the tops (right there in front of your guests!!), garnish (or keep it simple) and serve. At first, I was going try these out under the broiler. After googling this, though, it didn’t seem like that always works well.
So, I sent Patrick off to Lowe’s. If you know my husband (mechanical engineer), you must imagine how he trotted off in full anticipation of a gadget purchase. He came back giddily carrying our new…”torch”.
I knew there was no hope at all that I would be giving the crème brulées their crowning moment of glory. He was completely taking over from here on out. “Take a picture of the torch flame” he suggested with that adorable twinkle in his eyes.
Here it is… “zee flame”…
Have you ever smelled burnt sugar?
I tell you…
If the smell could be bottled and sold! It doesn’t take much (burnt sugar) to move my senses. No wonder I have tearful moments when I wander through farmer’s markets and am overwhelmed by the beauty of it all.
Now I have to go off and find out who were the first people to burn sugar over the top. Is there a pay scale for professional “googlers” like me? Remember, we learned that vanilla seeds are the insides of the stamen of a flower and fluffy bread might have had a start with “beer water”? I’m going to take a wild guess that burning sugar came from “zee french”.
Love “zos franch…”
The “torch” used for burning the tops of the brulées can be easily purchased at any hardware store. We paid $13. (Another note from Patrick: the torch can be found…in the plumbing section). I know, not very classy info. to include alongside this decadent dessert.
I must confess. I said that calorically these should be saved for those “special” occassions. There was no elegant dinner party at our house whene these crème brulées were served. Like everyone else I have chatted with, we are all too afraid to attempt these little pots of luxury… in front of other people.
Yes, we just sat around our kitchen table, the four of us, in complete rapture, in complete bliss, and savored every bite. The recipe makes 6 brulées.
Do you follow?
That means there were 2…leftover.
One got tucked into Patrick’s (a.k.a. torch man’s) lunch the following day. He told me he whipped his ramekin out during lunch and made a big “to-do” about “just having a simple little leftover” from home.
What happened to the second leftover, you might be musing? As the writer of this article…some snippets of info. just won’t be revealed…even over thyme… (insert low chortle here…)
- 1 quart (.95L) heavy cream
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped 1 cup vanilla sugar divided
- 6 large egg yolks
- 2 quarts (1.9L) hot water
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. (Snippet's Note: lean over the pan and breath deeply)
- Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes.
- Remove the vanilla bean and reserve for another use.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together ½ cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color.
- Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually.
- Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins.
- Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan.
- Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
- Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. (Mine needed closer to 45 minutes)
- Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
- Remove the creme brulee from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top.
- Divide the remaining ½ cup vanilla sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top.
- Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top.
- Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.