My husband’s 23rd birthday was on August 1. Every year he gets to pick what he wants for dessert. This is the 7th birthday of his we’ve spent together, and he’s only requested cake a couple of times. Many times it’s been cobbler. This year he said he wanted Creme Brulee. This is his favorite dessert. He said it’s been his favorite ever since he first tried it at the Cypress in Charleston. I’ve had it there too and it’s very, very good. It has a very strong vanilla flavor, so that’s the kind of Creme Brulee I wanted to make.
I was a little nervous about making it, but after I got started I found that there was no reason to be. This was pretty easy to put together. I halved the recipe and made it in 4 ramekins. David’s parents were also here to celebrate his birthday weekend, and we were looking forward to enjoying it after our amazing dinner at Soby’s. We were so full when we got back that we didn’t eat all of it at once. The nice thing about Creme Brulee is that you can keep it refrigerated and bring it out to top it with sugar and caramelize it when you’re ready. So we were able to enjoy this two nights in a row 🙂 This was a great dessert. The custard had a nice flavor and a smooth texture. David and I both agree that the best part of Creme Brulee is breaking into the caramelized sugar topping. It was a lot of fun to use the butane torch and watch the sugar caramelize. I’m glad that I mastered Creme Brulee and that I got to make it for David’s birthday- we were all quite happy with it!
Creme Brulee (Source: Desserts by the Yard by Sherry Yard)
4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar, plus ½ cup sugar for caramelizing
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out and reserved
6 large egg yolks
1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place eight 8-ounce ramekins in a large baking pan. (Be sure the baking pan is at least ½ inch deeper than the ramekins).
2. In a large saucepan, combine the cream, the 2/3 cup sugar, and the vanilla bean and seeds and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and allow the mixture to steep for 15 minutes. After steeping, the cream mixture should be at 165 degrees F.
3. Whisk the egg yolks lightly in a large bowl. Gently whisk the cream mixture into the egg yolks. Pour the custard through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl or large Pyrex measuring cup.
4. Fill each ramekin to the brim with custard. Fill the baking pan with enough hot water to come two thirds up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the baking pan loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. The custards are done when they are set but still have a slight jiggle. They should not be allowed to brown or rise. Remove from the water bath. Let cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then chill the custards for at least 2 hours before serving. (They will keep, covered, for up to 2 days in the refrigerator). Do not caramelize the tops until just before serving, as the caramelized sugar will begin to melt after 1 hour.
5. Caramelize the Crème Brulee: You will be coating the tops of the custards in two thin layers of caramelized sugar. Coat the top of each custard with sugar in a thin, even layer. Wipe off any sugar that sticks to the rim of the ramekin. Melt the sugar by moving the flame from a propane or butane kitchen torch, following the manufacturer’s directions, back and forth across the top of the custard, from a height of not less than 8 inches. As soon as the sugar melts and starts to color, dust lightly with a second layer of sugar and continue to melt and caramelize the sugar. Turn the ramekin every few seconds for even coloring. Within 1 minute, the sugar will begin to melt, bubble, and then turn into a golden caramel. Stop when the sugar is a dark golden color. (Even though the name of this custard is French for “burnt cream,” try not to burn the sugar). Allow the caramel to cool and harden for 2 minutes before serving.
6. Place the ramekins on plates lined with napkins or doilies.