Crème brûlée (literally burnt cream) is really very simple to make. And the sound from the kitchen of the finishing touch is always something to look forward to.
The quantities below are for four portions.
- 500 ml cream (you could use 250 ml of milk and 250 ml of cream; but if you are going to be bad, you might as well go all the way)
- 1 vanilla pod or vanilla concentrate paste (see below)
- 125 g of unrefined sugar
- The yokes of 4 large eggs (or 5 medium sized eggs)
- 25 g of unrefined sugar for the finishing touch.
You will need a little kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar on top.
- Split the eggs. This recipe does not use the egg whites. Save them for a meringue or egg white omelet.
- Split the vanilla pod length-wise. With a knife, scrape out the vanilla seeds. Add both pod and seeds to the cream in a little pan and gently warm it; but do not let it come to a boil. Let the vanilla infuse the cream for 15 minutes.
- Take the pan off the heat and remove the vanilla pod. Let the mixture cool down a little bit.
- Add 125 g of unrefined sugar to the egg yokes and mix well by hand or in a kitchen machine. The mixture will slightly thicken.
- Now we have to mix the two mixtures. There is always a risk of splitting when mixing a cold mixture with a hot one. So, "marry" the mixtures by adding a spoonful of the cream to the egg mixture and stir; repeat a few times. Now you can add the rest of the cream to the egg mixture.
- Divide the mixture over four ramekins. Place them in a baking tray. Add a little warm water to the baking tray and place in pre-heated oven at 120º Celsius.
- Keep an eye on progress. The mixture (Brits would call it a custard) will stiffen up (the pace depends on several factors: exact oven heat, initial temperature of the cream mixture, initial temperature of the surrounding water. Expect at least 20 minutes); don't overcook the mixture; take the baking tray out when the mixture is still a little "wobbly". Let the ramekins cool down. Cover with cling film and place in refrigerator. The desert should be cooled for several hours.
- Here comes the fun bit. Take out the ramekins, remove the cling film. Sprinkle the remaining sugar evenly over the four portions. With a kitchen torch, gently caramelize the sugar until the sugar starts bubbling and turning dark.
Unfortunately, there are many crises in this world, so really the vanilla crisis dwindles in comparison. But you may have noticed it is getting harder to find vanilla pods, and prices have quadrupled. Most vanilla is grown in Madagascar; several bad harvests effectively caused a shortage of vanilla. As an alternative to fresh vanilla (the pod should be bendable, not completely dried out) you could use vanilla paste. Make sure it is not a chemical substitute but actually made of vanilla pods.