A friend of ours who is coming to dinner requested Crème Brulee for dessert, so naturally I had to practice. Not that it requires much practice because it’s actually very simple, but I wanted to run a test and see which was better — Alton Brown’s version or the one from Cook’s Illustrated. I decided to go with the CI version, and since it was so good I’m not sure I’ll even bother with the other. Ha! Just kidding. Of course I will make the other. But first, here’s my scaled down version similar to the one from CI.
If you’re serving more than two and want the original recipe, you can find it with a quick Google search (look for “Classic Crème Brulee”). The original version uses a vanilla bean, but my advice is to skip the bean and invest in some vanilla bean paste. It’s almost as good as a bean (better than some beans) and will last a lot longer. And of course if you don’t have a torch you’ll need to buy one of those as well. The holidays are coming. And besides, isn’t it about time you owned a torch?
Update: After making these again today, I really recommend using a digital thermometer to ensure your desserts have reached the right temp. This thermometer by OXO is the one I recommend. You can use it for measuring the internal temperature of meat as well as pecan pie, brownies, cheesecakes and other things that are not always easy to judge with the naked eye.
- 10 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons heavy cream (5 1/3 ounces)
- 5 teaspoons of sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/3 of a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste or good quality vanilla
- 1/3 teaspoon turbinado or Demerara sugar
- Preheat oven to 300 F.Make sure the rack is in the lower third of the oven.
- Line an 8 inch square metal baking pan with a small dish rag.
- Bring a teapot of water to a boil (or use a saucepan with a spout if you don't have a teapot).
- In a small microwave-safe measuring cup, combine 5 tablespoons of the cream (about half) with the sugar. Heat for about 20-40 seconds or just until the cream is very hot, then stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the remaining cold cream to the cream/sugar mixture.
- Set two 4 or 5-ounce ramekins in the rag- lined pan and position them so they're not touching.
- In a small bowl, whisk the two egg yolks with the vanilla, then gradually whisk in the cream/sugar mixture. Divide the mixture between the two ramekins and set it on the oven rack.
- Pour enough boiling water into pan to reach two-thirds up sides of ramekins. Bake until centers of custards are just barely set and register 170 F to 175 F, 30 to 35 minutes (might even be a bit longer), checking after 25 minutes.
- Transfer ramekins to wire rack and let cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and chill until very cold.
- Remove plastic and sprinkle tops with the turbinado sugar.
- Ignite torch and caramelize sugar. Return to the refrigerator for about 1/2 an hour to re-chill, then serve. Makes 2 servings.