This four ingredient French classic (cream, vanilla, eggs and sugar) intimidated me - that is, until I tried making it. It was much easier than expected! The following recipe is how I make creme brûlée. Sometimes, I substitute the vanilla for a dash of chartreuse or orange flower essence for a little twist, but the classic vanilla version remains my favourite.
- 2 cups pure cream
- 1 vanilla pod (cut it open length-ways and scrape out the tiny beans with the edge of a spoon; we'll be using both the pod and the beans)
- 100g caster sugar
- 5 egg yolks
- granulated sugar, or cane sugar, or a sugar that's equally gritty
- Substitute option: 2 tbsp vanilla essence if you can't access a vanilla bean pod
- 4-5 ramekins
- kitchen torch (see notes for alternatives)
- small-medium saucepan
- heat-proof mixing bowl
- a roasting pan with enough depth to hold 1.5-2 cm of water
- Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius. Using your kettle, boil at least a liter of water and set aside for later.
- Put the cream, the vanilla beans and the vanilla pod skins into the saucepan, and place on a low heat for around 10 minutes or until lightly steaming. Stir regularly, keeping the heat low so that a skin doesn't form on the cream's surface.
- While you're waiting, put the egg yolks in the mixing bowl and, little by little, whisk in the caster sugar. After all the sugar has been added, whisk vigorously just until the mix attains a light yellow colour.
- When the cream is ready, remove the vanilla pod skins and discard.
- Bit by bit, pour the cream into the egg mix, whisking the cream and egg together between each pour.
- Place the ramekins into the roasting pan, then using the ladle, scoop the egg and cream mix into the ramekins, leaving at least a 1 cm space between the mix and the dish's rim.
- Carefully pour the hot water you boiled earlier into the roasting pan until 1.5-2cm of the ramekins are submerged.
- Place the roasting pan in the oven for around 30-35 minutes or until the crème brûlées are solid at their peripheries and only slightly wobble at their centers.
- Remove from oven to cool. When sufficiently cool enough, cover the ramekins and place them in the fridge for at least 2.5 hours or until sufficiently chilled.
- Before serving: Sprinkle their tops with granulated sugar. Melt the sugar with your kitchen torch until a deep caramel/appealingly burnt colour is attained.
- When heating the cream: Avoid forming a skin (from the cream) by stirring the cream regularly and ensuring that the heat isn't too high. Stick to a low temperature and longer steaming time if you're unsure.
- When adding the cream to the eggs: I find that adding the cream bit by bit and incorporating it into the egg before adding more leads to a silkier texture when the crème brûlée is done.
- Leftover egg-whites tip: What to do with those leftover egg whites? I tend to make an omelette (as it seems to be the easy option) but you can also make meringues, cakes, macaroons and even cocktails with them.
- Don't have a kitchen torch? Kitchen torches and gas refills are easy to come by on the Internet. However, there are a couple of alternatives that I've read about (but haven't tried). The first is to caramelise the coating of sugar by placing the ramekins in a grill or on the highest shelf of your oven with the heat setting turned to its upper element or grilling mode. The second is to heat the back of a spoon over the flame of a gas stove and then gently press the heated spoon on the sugar coating until all the sugar has melted and coloured.
- Consumption time: Up to two days after their preparation; perhaps three if you store them well.