Crème brûlée is a classic dessert. Don’t be fooled by its apparent simplicity (isn’t it just custard and a bit of toffee?). Each mouthful is a revelation of contrast: smooth custard against crispy toffee, delicate vanilla spiked with the heady scent of caramelised sugar. Divine.
This recipe is unapologetically rich, full of cream, sugar and egg yolks. But tell you what… it was oh so easy! The few ingredients I blended then divided into individual ramekins, which gently baked in a hot water bath, until just set.
Then it was fun time – I cranked up the blow torch to make the toffee. I liberally sprinkled sugar over each pot of set crème, and then blasted each top surface with the torch to quickly melt and caramelise. The result: a golden, glassy top layer of toffee caramel. Finally, it’s ready to eat.
My favourite crème brûlée moment is the first excavation – diving in with a spoon, tip first, shattering the glassy toffee layer with a resounding crack. As the toffee breaks open, the soft crème is revealed in all its silky goodness.
Crème brûlée is the perfect dessert for any dinner party. Fabulously decadent, yet ridiculously practical, the pots can me made days in advance and stored in the fridge until they’re ready to be served. Clever you.
Adapted from Williams Sonoma’s Home Baked Comforts, by Kim Laidlaw
- 750ml thickened cream
- 125g caster sugar, plus extra for torching
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 vanilla bean
- 8 large egg yolks
- Hot water, fresh off the boil
- Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 150C. Place 6 oven-proof ramekins (125ml capacity) in a baking pan.
- In a saucepan, stir together the cream, sugar and salt. Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and pod to the cream. Bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl, just to break them up. Whisking constantly, slowly add the cream mixture to the yolks (I got my husband to pour the cream in a steady stream, as I held the bowl steady and whisked away). Divide the mixture between the ramekins that are sitting in the baking pan. Place the pan on the oven rack, and quickly but carefully pour the hot water into the oven pan until it comes about half-way up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 30-35 minutes until they are just set, but still jiggly.
- Carefully remove the custards from the water bath and cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
- After the custards have been sufficiently chilled, generously sprinkle each custard with a tablespoon of caster sugar. Fire up the blow torch, until the sugar melts and caramelises. Cool in the fridge until the caramel topping hardens. Serve chilled.