What is your favorite dessert? I am not much of a sweets person, but I really do love me some creme brulee. And I was shocked to find that I hadn’t yet shared my award-winning creme brulee recipe here.
A number of years ago, I was talking to my colleague and fellow foodie friend, Randy about the creme brulee they had at Kincaids and I told him that *I* could make a better creme brulee than they do. I think their proportion of custard to topping is not quite right and their topping still has crystallized sugar bits in it. He claimed that he could also make a better one than theirs and then challenged me to a creme brulee-off. So we, along with quite a few other colleagues, had a creme brulee contest at work. There was quite a bit of excitement around the contest and while Randy had some technical difficulties in making his creme brulee, the two of us came in first and second.
I took first place in the contest.
This is something that I remind Randy of every once in awhile…because he’s an amazing cook and would beat me at anything else, if I ever chose to challenge him. But just this one time, I won. While we were talking about the problems which led to him losing to me, he told me which recipe he uses. It’s this one right here – the same recipe I used. But his special secrets were to use vanilla bean and superfine sugar. And those just so happen to be the same two things I always make sure to use. So, while we worked independently of each other, we both used the exact same recipe with the exact same “secrets”. Take that as the highest endorsement for THE BEST creme brulee recipe.
Here’s the reason for the superfine sugar – it dissolves very quickly and completely, making for a creamy dessert, with great texture and without any crystallization in the custard. It also melts very well when making the burnt sugar topping so you get the great contrast of a cool, creamy custard and the crunchy, brittle burnt topping.
And the vanilla bean imparts such a great flavor, better than any vanilla extract can provide. Plus you get the tiny black vanilla seeds at the bottom of your custard, which to me makes it all the better.
So here’s how you make it.
Combine the cream, sugar and the sliced and scraped vanilla bean and seeds in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
While the cream is heating, separate your eggs
and whisk the yolks in a medium bowl or a glass measuring cup like I did here.
After the cream comes to a simmer, turn the burner to the lowest setting, put the lid on your pan and let the flavors infuse for 10 minutes. Then remove from the heat and strain the cream mixture.
You’ll want to whisk in a little bit of the hot cream mixture to the egg mixture to temper the eggs or keep the eggs from immediately scrambling when you add them to the hot cream. So pour a little bit of the cream into the eggs, mix well, and then add a little more.
When the egg mixture is warmed up enough, pour it all into the hot cream.
Mix it well, then pour it into the ramekins. I like to use the large glass measuring cups for all of this mixing and whisking and such, because it makes it a whole lot easier in the end to pour the custard into the ramekins.
My ramekins have a little ledge near the top that I use as a guide for how full they should be.
Into the pre-heated oven they go for about 30-35 minutes.
When they jiggle slightly, but are mostly firm, they are done. Remove them from the oven and let them cool until you can pick up the ramekins, then put them in the fridge to chill completely. Or if you live in Minnesota in February, you can put them outside on the patio for a few hours instead!
Now comes the fun part – pulling out the torch and burning the sugar!
Top the custard with about 1/2 a tablespoon of superfine sugar. You want to cover the entire top, but don’t want too deep of a layer of sugar.
As you can see here, my super-fine sugar has clumped. And because I was too lazy to sift out the lumps, I left them in and you’ll see that they all melted. But you could certainly be a better person than I and sift the sugar first.
Now, light your torch. Some of you may have those cute little hand-held creme brulee torches that have a gentle little flame…but I learned all about burning creme brulee in a restaurant where we had the industrial size torch, so I went to my local hardware store and got one of these for myself. And I love it!
Take your time and keep the flame about 2 inches away from the custard. You can leave your ramekin on the countertop and burn it that way, or you could live on the edge as I definitely do and pick it up and turn the custard while moving the flame around the top, gently melting and burning the sugar.
Once all the sugar has melted and is nice and dark, you’re done!
I like to burn all my creme brulee immediately before serving them. I think they taste best that way and it is also entertaining for the dinner guests. Sometimes, they want to learn to burn their own. Dinner AND a show!
Serve with fresh berries or tropical fruit like papaya or kiwi fruit.
Adapted from Epicurious
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
5 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
Fresh berries or other fruit
Preheat oven to 325°F/160°C. Place six 3/4-cup ramekins in 9”x13″ pan and add 2-3 cups of hot water to the pan. The water should come halfway up the side of the ramekins.
Use small knife to split the vanilla bean the long way and scrape out the seeds. Mix the cream, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds in a heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and mixture just comes to a simmer. Cover the pan, reduce heat to very low and simmer gently for 10 minutes to infuse flavors. Then strain into a large measuring cup.
Whisk the yolks in a medium bowl until well blended. Gradually whisk in hot cream mixture just to blend. Pour that mixture back into the rest of the custard in the large measuring cup; pour equally among ramekins. Carefully transfer the pan to oven.
Bake custards until almost set in center when pans are gently shaken, about 30 – 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 30 minutes. Chill at least 3 hours in refrigerator.
Make burnt sugar topping:
Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of superfine 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.
You can refrigerate until custards are firm again but topping is still brittle, at least 2 hours but no longer than 4 hours so that topping doesn’t soften. Garnish creme brulee with fruit and serve.