Crème brûlée is the ultimate in classic French desserts. Smooth creamy custard topped off with that crackly caramelized sugar...C'est Magnifique! Light and luscious, it's the perfect way to end just about any meal.
Jacques' recipe is simple and straightforward. The custard, which we all know can be difficult, came together perfectly and was hands down the easiest and best custard I've ever made. I poured the beautiful custard into my ramekins with great satisfaction and baked the custards in a water bath as directed. Jacques said to check the water bath to ensure the water didn't come to a boil. I checked ten minutes into baking and the water was still warm and not boiling. I felt 100% sure my crème brûlée was going to be perfect! However, I checked back a few minutes later and the water was boiling! "No, no, no" I scream to myself as I throw ice cubes into the pan frantically. The water stopped boiling immediately but by that time I was feeling rather deflated. I carefully watched the water from that point on and allowed the crème brûlée to finish it's cooking time.
The crème brûlée was still delicious but since the water bath came to a boil for a few minutes they didn't have that smooth silky texture I was after. I'm actually quite happy the crème brûlée turned out at all considering my faux pas. Moral of the story: When making crème brûlée start with cool water and occasionally throw in ice cubes to lower the temp of the water bath. No matter how much time you spend in the kitchen you always learn new tricks and that is part of the fun. Looking forward to trying this one again so I can master it!
Adapted from Essential Pepin
by Jacques Pepin
1 cup milk
1/2 vanilla bean, cut in half
1 large egg
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons light brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the milk and vanilla in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep for 5 minutes.
Beat the egg and egg yolks with the sugar in a bowl and add the cream. Add the steeped milk mixture, stirring well to mix thoroughly. Strain through a fine strainer.
Arrange six 1/2-cup souffle dishes or ramekins in a roasting pan and fill them with the crème brûlée mixture. Add enough lukewarm water to the pan to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the crème is set. (The water around the dishes should not boil; if it begins to boil, add some ice to lower the temperature and stop the boiling.) Remove the custards from the water bath and let cool. When the custards are cool, cover and refrigerate until cold. You can make the custards up to 3 days ahead.
At serving time, or no more than 1 hour beforehand, preheat the broiler. This can also be done with a propane torch. Spread 2 teaspoons of the brown sugar evenly over the top of each custard. Place the custards under the broiler and broil, moving them around and watching them closely, until the sugar bubbles and turns uniformly brown, approximately 3 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes, until the sugar surface hardens, before serving.
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