Creme brulee seems to have a bit of a rep for being a fancy, snooty dessert. It might be because of the French name, or maybe because it is a bit delicate during the cooking period. But the reality of it is that creme brulee is very easy to make, and once you have a handle on the basics you can branch out and make it any flavor you want!
Classic Creme Brulee —
-1 quart heavy cream (the big carton they sell at any grocery store)
-6 egg yolks
-1/2 tsp salt
-2 Tbsp vanilla extract
-1 vanilla bean (optional)
-1/2 cup of sugar
-Extra sugar for topping
Split the vanilla bean and remove the caviar (the little seeds inside). Put the caviar or seeds inside of a large mixing bowl, set aside. In a saucepan put the whole carton of cream and the vanilla bean (with the insides removed). Bring to a boil, and remove from the heat as soon as it does, discard vanilla bean. Set aside, and “fuhgeddaboudit,” at least for the next 15-20 minutes it will take to cool off a bit.
Meanwhile put the six egg yolks in the large mixing bowl that has the vanilla seeds, also add the sugar and the salt. Mix until the egg yolks turn a pretty light yellow color. Once the cream has rested for a bit start adding to the eggs. We are going to need to temper it so that we don’t scramble the eggs. Tempering is just a fancy word for gradually bringing it to the same temperature. So we are going to start by adding one tablespoon of the cream into the eggs, then quickly stir, then add a little more, stir, add more, and stir some more. Do this until you have combined all of the cream and the eggs.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Strain the mixture and add it into your ramekins. You can also use any small ovenproof containers. Place ramekins in a deep baking dish and add water until it comes up at least halfway. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove and let them come to room temperature, then put the ramekins in the refrigerator and let chill for at least an hour before serving. This is a great place to stop if you are making this ahead for a party or a special dinner. They will keep in the refrigerator if covered for about a week, just add the sugar and brown before you eat.
Now for the sugar topping I have made it three different ways and I can say, by far, the easiest method is to use a butane torch. Just sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on top and brown.
However if you do not have a butane torch there are some things you can do. Set your broiler to high, make sure your creme is really well chilled, add a tablespoon of sugar and set under the broiler, keep an eye on it the whole time, should not take more than a minute.
Your other option is to make the caramel stove-top. This is pretty dangerous since caramel can give you a very nasty burn, so please be very careful. In a small saucepan add 1/2 a cup of sugar and let it melt, stirring constantly, until it is a deep brown color. At this point drizzle over your chilled creme. Do not add too much or your caramel topping will be too hard and will make it difficult to get to the cream.
That’s it, a little labor intensive but completely worth it, and fairly simple to make!!
You will need 1 large baking chocolate bar broken into small pieces or 1 cup of chocolate chips. Melt in the cream when you are bringing it to a boil. That’s it! Now your base will be chocolaty and you just have to follow all the instructions the same as you would for the classic creme brulee.
Matcha (Green Tea):
You will need 2 Tbsp of matcha powder (green tea powder). A word of caution, you can’t just add green tea, matcha is a very green powder made with a special green tea which is then finely ground, it can not be substituted with normal green tea… Not that I have any experience in the area >_>
Add the matcha to the egg yolks when you add the sugar. Mix well until it has all incorporated. Then follow the instructions in the classic creme brulee recipe.
Once mastered this recipe is extremely versatile and it will have you looking like a master chef to all of your near and dear!! Serve it at tea, as your Easter dessert, at brunch, or try the chocolate variation on a romantic date, the possibilities are endless!