Creme Brûlée

Creme Brulee is always a winner for a dessert.  It is also much easier to make using this technique then most people imagine.
Great for a dinner party because they can be made a day in advance and chilled in the fridge leaving just the sugar topping to do just before serving.
If you don’t own a blowtorch, you can try to caramelise them under the grill, but I think that rarely works as it takes too long and heats up the custard. My advice is – get a blowtorch.
This makes about 6-8 depending on the size of your ramekins.

Ingredients

  • 600ml double cream
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 100g caster sugar (you will need extra for the topping)
  • 6 free-range egg yolks

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2.
  2. Pour the cream into a saucepan. Split the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape the seeds into the cream. Then add the vanilla pod (halved if too long)
  3. Warm the cream to boiling point, then turn off the heat. It’s best if you can let it get quite cool.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the sugar and egg yolks together until pale.
  5. Pour the cream over the egg mixture, whisking continuously while you pour until well mixed. I find this makes enough for about 6-8 ramekins, the variation in quantity comes from the egg sizes and the ramekin sizes.
  6. Fill the ramekins leaving a few millimetres for it to expand slightly when cooking.
  7. Boil a kettle full of water.
  8. Place the filled ramekins into a large roasting tray and carefully put the tray into the opened oven. It’s easier if you don’t add the water till you set the tray in the oven.
  9. Before closing the oven pour in enough hot water from the kettle to come two-thirds of the way up their outsides. (This is called a bain-marie.)
  10. Close the oven door and the custards will cook in the warm bain marie. I find this takes about 15-25 minutes. It can depend on the shape and size of your ramekin.
  11. When they are ready they should still have a nice wobble if gently shaken, they will set further when they cool. If you cook them too long they become too firm and may crack on top. I find 15-20 minutes gives them a lovely soft texture when cooled. Take them out of the oven and out of the bain marie to cool. Once cooled they can go into the fridge to chill further. (I find a pair of tongs ideal for removing the ramekins from the hot water. Take care not to drop them. A fish lift might slide under them and be helpful too.)
  12. When ready to serve, sprinkle one level teaspoon of caster sugar evenly over the surface of each crème brûlée, then caramelise with a chefs’ blow-torch. Don’t add too much sugar to the top or you will create a thick layer that’s hard to eat. To be at their best this must be done in the 60 minutes before serving or the crisp sugar top will go soft. I find it only takes a few minutes.

Variants

Fruit

Creme Brulee is especially nice with a thin layer of fruit at the bottom of the ramekin. Ideally, you want to have a contrast, not too sweet. You can make it seasonal almost anything will work. My personal favourites are Rhubarb, and Raspberry. You want to just gently cook the fruit with a little water and sugar to make a very light fruit compote. For me, the fruit has to keep its general shape. Rhubarb must be cooked but still hold together as pieces of stalk. Otherwise, it’s just a mush. Raspberries are also very delicate. I find you can add a handful and cook till they dissolve to give a base, then add the whole fruits just warming and removing from heat before they dissolve. Spoon a small amount into the base of the ramekin before you add the custard. It brings a sharp balance to the dessert and is eaten up through the layers of creamy sweet custard.

Rose Water

I’ve made this with rose water before and it was faint but tasty. I’d increase the quantity if doing again. For the above quantities I’d suggest 2 tbsp rose water. You could do more but it can be a quite overpowering flavour if too strong. I tried 1 tbsp and it was barely discernible. I think some trial and error is required. Actually, rose water goes well with rhubarb. I will try that when the rhubarb is in season. Also, if doing just rose flavour I would reduce the vanilla, you could even omit it completely.

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