Yes, I know. It’s summer. And it’s still hot and yucky most places in the country. My general rule is that my oven doesn’t go on, but I make exceptions sometimes. There are days when it’s cool in the morning, and I know I want a special creamy and cool dessert. And so I present you with creme brulee.
Is there anything better than that crunch of the sugar shell and then the luscious interior that leaves you licking your spoon and wanting more? This is such a great summer dessert. There’s even the fun of playing with fire when making it – all the better!
And yeah, it is sorta easy. Way easier than you would expect given what you pay for it in restaurants. Four ingredients. That’s it. Really.
4 c heavy cream, not ultrapasteurized
8 egg yolks
1/2 c sugar
2 vanilla beans*
*Vanilla beans are awesome. I love them. Use them. But if you can’t, go ahead and use 2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste, my new favorite ingredient
Cut the vanilla beans in half, and use the back of a knife to carefully scrape out the seeds. If you are not using the seeds, skip the vanilla for now. Add the cream and the seeds to a heavy pot and turn the heat to medium. Add the beans, too – why not; it just adds more flavor. Scald the cream, which means you want it to start to steam and have a few tiny bubbles but do not let it actually boil. When it just barely starts to have a skin form, it’s done. Remove the vanilla beans and scrape them one last time to get any more seeds out, adding those to the cream, too.
While the cream scalds, prepare your eggs. Separate the whites from the yolks (save the whites for meringues or angel food cake or a whole bunch of egg white omelettes). Place the yolks into a large bowl and whisk them until they’re incorporated. Add the sugar to the yolks and whisk until the yolks are lightened in color.
When the cream is scalded, add just a couple tablespoons of cream to the eggs while whisking the eggs to temper them. Add a little more cream and keep whisking. Once the eggs are brought up to temperature, add the remaining cream, still whisking so that you don’t cook the eggs. Scrambled eggs in cream? Eww. If you didn’t use vanilla beans, now is the time to add your vanilla bean paste.
Place six ramekins into a baking dish. Ladle the creme brulee mixture into the ramekins. To minimize how much I need to carry the liquid, I do my ladling with the baking dish sitting on my stove over my oven. Smart me, right? Once they’re evenly distributed, place the baking dish in your oven. Then, use a tea kettle to carefully add boiling water to the baking dish so that it covers at least two-thirds of the ramekins, being sure not to spill any of the water into the ramekins (see, me being smart again).
Bake the creme brulee for 25-35 minutes, until the centers are just set. It will take longer if you let the cream cool before mixing it with the eggs. Once baked, let the ramekins cool in the fridge. When you are ready to serve them, sprinkle a good layer of sugar (brown sugar is awesome – just sayin’) atop the creme brulee and use a torch to melt the sugar, starting in the center and then carefully circling out to the edges. Don’t make your crust ahead, but the rest can be done a day or two in advance and kept in the fridge.