National Crème Brûlée Day isn’t until tomorrow, but then tomorrow is also National New Jersey Day. Believe me when I tell you that I tried to tie in National Crème Brûlée Day with the state of New Jersey. Couldn’t be done, but I also didn’t want to miss my deep love of all things Crème Brûlée.
If I had to name one weakness (oh yeah, like there is only one!) it would be that I cannot resist creamy-custard desserts. The best Crème Brûlée I have ever tasted was in Bora Bora. But then again, Bora Bora belongs to France. And let’s face it, when it comes to creamy anything no one does it like the French. I had Crème Brûlée every day and did not tire of it.
This really isn’t a difficult dessert to make. Just remember, straining the custard is very important, and a slow moist bake is crucial to success. To get that crackly “burnt” sugar shell, a blow torch is a must. Just ask Julia Child. While she may not have uttered “every woman should have a blow torch”, she believed in the sentiment and truth in those words. Besides, burning things really is fun.
Vanilla Crème Brûlée
6 large Egg Yolks
1 Vanilla Bean or 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 cup Powdered Sugar
1 pinch Kosher Salt
3 cups Heavy Cream
1/2 cup Sugar
Heat oven to 300-degrees. Line a roasting pan or high-rimmed baking pan with a clean kitchen towel. (The towel will insulate the bottom of the ramekins and protect the custard from the intense heat of the pan). Evenly arrange the 6 ramekins in the roasting pan, set aside. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.
Separate the eggs, reserve whites for another use. Place egg yolks in a medium bowl. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the pulp. Whisk the pulp into the yolks, breaking the yolks gently. Whisk in the powdered sugar with a pinch of salt. Whisk until uniform.
Add a drizzle of cream, whisk until the yolk mixture begins to lightened, then add the remaining cream, continuing to whisk until well blended.
Strain the Crème Brûlée custard mixture into a spouted container such as a pitcher. (If using vanilla extract, add to the strained custard).
Divide the custard between the ramekins, filling as close to the edge as possible. Place the pan into the oven. Carefully add the boiling water to the pan to create a water bath (bain-marie). Take care not to allow any of the water to splash into the ramekins.
Bake the Crème Brûlée for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the depth of the ramekins. (Shallow dishes with custard less than 1-inch deep can bake in 30 minutes, taller dishes with a custard of 2-inches deep can take 50 to 60 minutes). When done, the custard will jiggle from side to side when nudged, but should not be liquid in the center. The custard will firm up considerably in the refrigerator, so pull from the oven once the jiggly-not-liquid consistency in reached.
Carefully remove ramekins from the water bath. Let rest on the counter for 5 minutes to cool, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until ready to serve.
When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator. Gently dab the tops of the custard with a paper towel to remove any moisture on condensation. Evenly sprinkle the tops with a thin layer of granulated sugar. Shake the ramekins back and forth to distribute the sugar evenly. Tap out any excess sugar. The layer should just cover the top of the custard while almost allowing the custard to be seen. Use a kitchen torch to burn the sugar, moving evenly across the surface until the sugar is caramelized. It should be a golden crisp cap over the custard.
1 cup Sugar
6 Mint Leaves
In a heavy-bottom pan over medium-high heat, heat sugar to 300 degrees. Let it melt and turn an amber-gold color. Using a small metal spoon, string the hot sugar over the back of a lightly oiled metal ladle. Trim the sugar around the edge of the ladle. Carefully slide the cage from the ladle. It is extremely fragile, so it might take some practice. Store at room temperature until ready to garnish.
Slice strawberries as desired in half or as a fan. Arrange berries, sugar cages and mint leaves for a pretty presentation for the “Wow” factor.