Crème brulée, the French vanilla custard with a caramelized sugar crust, is one of my all-time favorite treats. If it's on a restaurant's dessert menu, then I can't help but order it. And sometimes, for a special occasion, I'll make it at home.
It's not that difficult to make; the technique is similar to homemade ice cream, but instead of putting the mixture in an ice cream maker, it's baked in a bath of water. It requires time to chill, so plan in advance, especially when entertaining.
I love how such simple ingredients (cream, sugar, eggs, and vanilla bean) can be transformed into something that's absolutely sublime and truly sophisticated. Ready to learn how it's done? Keep reading.
1 quart heavy cream
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
1 cup sugar, divided
6 large egg yolks
1 container raspberries, optional
- Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
- In a medium saucepan, bring cream, vanilla bean, and its pulp to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean.
- In a medium bowl, whisk egg yokes. Then, while whisking, slowly pour in 1/2 cup sugar. Mix until well combined. Slowly drizzle cream over sugar mixture a little at a time, whisking continually. Use a fine-mesh sieve to strain mixture into a large liquid measuring cup.
- Pour liquid into six 7- to 8-ounce ramekins, and place ramekins into a large roasting pan, fitted with a tea towel underneath to prevent ramekins from sliding around pan. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins, careful to avoid any water from getting into ramekins.
- Bake just until crème brulée is set but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Immediately remove ramekins from roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
- Remove crème brulée from refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning sugar on top. Use remaining sugar to completely coat tops of crème brulée with a thin layer of sugar. Using a torch, point it directly down a few inches away from crème brulée. Use small circular motions to melt sugar. As soon as sugar begins to bubble, pick up ramekin, and slowly rotate it as you continue to point the torch toward the center to caramelize the sugar. As soon as the sugar boils and appears golden brown, quickly turn off blow torch, and set ramekin down to cool and form a crispy top. If you do not have a torch, then broil in an oven for several minutes until sugar caramelizes. Allow crème brulée to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving with raspberries.
Photos: Anna Monette Roberts