Easy Creme Brulee

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I’m a bit of a creme brûlée fanatic. I can’t resist ordering them off any menu. My sister is the same. So when she and I are out together our husbands have no choice but to comply.

While in Seattle, while my sister and her husband were visiting from New York, we decided to do a bit of wine tasting. After an hour or two of drinking we headed to a local fine-dining eatery. It was lovely. Amazing food, and amazing wine, as you’d expect. By the time the waiter asked if we wanted dessert, we were sufficiently lubricated such that all dessert prospects seemed amazing. My brother-in-law, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup fan, ordered a chocolate peanut butter treat. My sister and I ordered the creme brûlée du jour (of the day). Since we were celebrating her wedding anniversary I let her do the customary cracking of the caramel. She grabbed her teaspoon, smashed it with a satisfying clink and dug into the custard. So excited was she that she popped it straight into her mouth and I waited patiently for my turn. However, her face suddenly contorted and I saw the strain of trying not to spit out her food in a fancy dining establishment. She swallowed with great difficulty and mouthed “banana”.

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That’s all I needed to hear. I was horrified. Banana custard is the stuff my nightmares are made of. It’s my least favourite fruit, by far my least favourite flavour. Why would anyone put it in a creme brûlée?

Suffice it to say the dessert went largely untouched, even the boys tried it and passed. It was truly awful.

What it has taught me is to not jump at every brûlée on the menu. To ask the chef what the flavour is and to take that first bite with caution. I still love creme brûlées though.

I wanted to put this recipe together to convince you that creme brulee need not be on the “too hard” or “fancy restaurant” list. They are simple to make and the skill it takes is really the ability to watch an oven carefully. By cooking in a bain marie or water bath you cook gently and slowly to avoid the dreaded scrambled eggs. Don’t be afraid to open the oven door and check with a gentle wobble of the cup.

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Ingredients

Makes 2

  • 200ml pure cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 tsp caster sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 tablespoons of caster sugar for the brûlées

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 150C and put 2 small ovenproof ramekins (I used 2 tea cups*)  in a baking tin/dish.

Heat the cream and vanilla bean paste over a medium-low heat and heat until the milk is just coming to the boil. Take off the heat.

In the mean-time mix the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl and stir until just combined.

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When the cream begins to boil, pour the cream on to the yolk and sugar mix, stirring constantly to mix.

Divide the mixture between the ramekins through a strainer . Place the baking tin in the oven and pour cold water into the baking tin until it comes two-thirds of the way up the ramekins.

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Bake for about 40 minutes or until the custard is just set – it should only wobble faintly when shaken. Cool and then chill in the fridge until cold, at least 1 hour.

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To  brûlée

With a blowtorch

Remove custards in ramekins from the refrigerator. Dab the tops with a paper towel to remove any water or condensed liquid.

Scatter the tops of the cold brûlées with the remaining sugar, and use a blowtorch or hot grill to caramelise the tops.

Now the best trick I’ve learnt when blowtorching the brûlées is to do it in layers. I’ve allocated 1 tablespoon per ramekin, so scatter half this quantity and brûlée with the blowtorch. Cool slightly then scatter with more sugar and brûlée again. I find this creates a nice thick crispy brûlée top and stops the burning.

Without a blowtorch

Remove custards in ramekins from the refrigerator. Dab the tops with a paper towel to remove any water or condensed liquid.

Evenly sprinkle caster sugar over the top of each custard.

Heat up a large cooking spoon, being careful to protect your hand from a handle that could get hot.

Place the heated spoon over the sugared top of custard and listen for the sizzle, smell the caramel and watch burnt sugar being made.

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*Please check whether your mugs are oven-safe before you put them in the oven!

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Filed under Puddings, Sweet Treats, Uncategorized

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