Classic Crème Brûlée 

Crème brûlée is a luxurious French dessert that consists of a rich custard base topped with a layer of hard caramelized sugar. Here’s a straightforward recipe tailored for two people.

Ingredients

  • Heavy cream: 1 cup (240 ml)
  • Vanilla bean: 1/2 (or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
  • Egg yolks: 2 large
  • Granulated sugar: 3 tablespoons (plus extra for caramelizing)
  • Salt: A pinch

Equipment

  • 2 ramekins (6-ounce capacity each)
  • Baking dish or roasting pan
  • Small saucepan
  • Mixing bowls
  • Whisk
  • Fine-mesh strainer or muslin cloth
  • Kitchen torch (or broiler for caramelizing sugar)

Preparation

  1. Preheat the Oven:
    • Preheat your oven to 325°F (160°C).
  2. Prepare the Vanilla Cream
    • Pour the heavy cream into a small saucepan.
    • If using a vanilla bean, split it lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add both the seeds and the pod to the cream. If using vanilla extract, add it later with the egg yolks.
    • Heat the cream over medium heat until it just starts to simmer, then remove from heat. Let it sit for 10 minutes to infuse the vanilla flavor.
  3. Prepare the Custard
    • In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar, and a pinch of salt until the mixture is pale and slightly thickened.
    • If you’re using vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean, add it to the egg yolk mixture now.
  4. Combine and Strain
    • Slowly pour the warm cream into the egg yolk mixture, whisking continuously to avoid cooking the eggs.
    • Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into another bowl to remove any bits of cooked egg and the vanilla pod if used.
  5. Bake the Custards
    • Place the ramekins in a baking dish or roasting pan.
    • Divide the custard mixture evenly between the ramekins.
    • Pour hot water into the baking dish to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. This water bath (bain marie) helps the custards cook evenly.
    • Carefully place the water bath in the preheated oven.
  6. Bake
    • Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the custards are set around the edges but still slightly jiggly in the center.
    • Remove the ramekins from the water bath and let them cool to room temperature.
    • Once cooled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
  7. Caramelize the Sugar
    • Just before serving, sprinkle an even layer of granulated sugar (about 1-2 teaspoons) on top of each custard.
    • Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar until it melts and turns a deep golden brown. If you don’t have a torch, you can place the ramekins under a broiler for a few minutes, watching closely to prevent burning.
  8. Serve:
    • Allow the caramelized sugar to harden for a minute or two before serving.

Tips for Success

  • Cream: Ensure the cream doesn’t boil; you want it just hot enough to infuse the vanilla.
  • Custard Texture: The custard should be smooth and creamy. Straining the mixture helps achieve this.
  • Caramelizing: A kitchen torch gives you more control over caramelizing the sugar. If using a broiler, watch carefully to avoid burning.

Final Thoughts

Crème brûlée is a classic dessert that impresses with its creamy custard and crisp caramel topping. This recipe for two ensures you can enjoy this delightful treat without needing to make a large batch. Serve with fresh berries or a sprig of mint for an elegant touch.

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