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January 14, 2008 / Tony

Creme Brulee

After last night’s dinner and dessert, I think I’m convinced that Creme Brulee is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get a “fancy” dessert on the table.  All it requires is a bit of heating, a bit of mixing, some gentle time in the oven, and a torch.  There’s nothing tricky about it and the presentation is beautiful.  Here’s the recipe I did:

Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee, based on this recipe at

2 cups whipping cream

1/2 cup sugar plus more for topping

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

5 large egg yolks

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Using the blade of a paring knife, scrape the vanilla bean seeds from the inside of the bean.  Then, mix cream, sugar and vanilla beans in a heavy medium saucepan.  Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to simmer. Cover pan, reduce heat to very low and simmer gently 10 minutes to infuse flavors. Strain into large measuring cup.

Whisk yolks in medium bowl until well blended. Gradually whisk in hot cream mixture just to blend. Return custard to measuring cup; divide among dishes; either ramekins or flan dishes. Pour enough hot water into pans to come halfway up sides of dishes. Carefully transfer pans to oven.

Bake custards until almost set in center when pans are gently shaken, about 30 to 40 minutes. Using metal spatula, transfer custards in dishes to work surface; cool 30 minutes. Then chill at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

When cool, sprinkle about 2 teaspoons sugar evenly over each custard. Working with 1 custard at a time, hold blowtorch so that flame is 2 inches above surface. Direct flame so that sugar melts and browns, about 2 minutes.

Compare that to make a tart or galette or even cookies.  There’s just not the same amount of active labor involved, although you do need to be around for the baking and simmering times.  Here’s the result:


A few notes:  1)  Do not buy one of those fancy, expensive torches from Sur la Table or Williams Sonoma or the like.  They’re probably underpowered and at least double the price of a sturdy torch that you can get at your local hardware store for about 10-15 dollars.  Trust me, it will work better and you’ll save money.  Plus, the torch is a multi-tasker while the wimpy specialty one is not.  2)  Be sure to really whisk the eggs well before adding any of the hot cream.  Doing so will help ensure that you don’t have a lumpy custard.  3)  Add the hot cream to the egg yolks very slowly.  Otherwise, you may end up with scrambled eggs.  Start out with about a tablespoon at a time and whisk thoroughly before adding more.  Be careful, you can only add the hot cream too quickly.  There’s no penalty for going too slowly. 

What you end up with is a smooth, richly flavored, and dense dessert with a delightfully crackly topping.  It’s really a treat.  Amanda liked it quite a bit. 


One Comment

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  1. Amanda / Jan 15 2008 7:22 pm

    It was heaven 🙂

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