Vanilla Creme Brûlée

Creme Brûlée is French for ‘burnt cream’.

What would have remained a delicious and creamy custard is lifted to sublime heights by caramelizing some sugar on top.

creme brulee coverThe origin of this simple but decadent dessert remains mired in controversy with the English, the Spanish and the French all claiming to have invented it. Whatever the truth, it is known the world over by its French name.

This surprisingly easy to make dessert is ideal when entertaining guests since most of the work can be done ahead.

The velvety smoothness and silkiness of the custard base, combined with the brittle sugar crust is sure to elicit appreciative comments from everyone. But the real ‘aha’ moment is when you crack the shell with your spoon!

creme brulee closeupThe custard is traditionally made from cream, sugar and egg yolks and vanilla. So the next time you have some egg yolks sitting in your freezer, like I did after making the Angel Food Cake with Mango Mousse filling, you know what to do with them.

The custard is either cooked till it is thick and then chilled till set or it is baked in a water bath (bain marie) in the oven, in which case the custard is not thickened over the gas top.

To caramelize the sugar, you could place it under a broiler/ grill or use a butane blowtorch. (I bought one just to make this at home).

I like to make it in small ramekins so it is easier to serve, but if you like, you could make it in one tart dish.

The recipe I follow is the one from Masterchef and is fairly uncomplicated -1 egg yolk to 100 ml liquid. The only thing I do differently is use half cream and half full fat milk. Makes me feel less guilty!

While I love vanilla, you could unleash your creativity and experiment with the flavors. Add some Irish cream, lemon or orange zest, cranberries or blueberries, lavender, coffee or maybe a chocolate creme brulee, whatever takes your fancy.

Vanilla Creme Brûlée

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Serves 4

Vanilla Creme Brûlée

A simple but delicious dessert.

Adapted from the Masterchef recipe

For Creme Brûlée:
200 ml cream
200 ml whole fat milk
4 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped or 1 tsp vanilla extract
33 gms caster sugar
80 gms granulated sugar or Demerara sugar
To make Creme Brûlée:
Preheat oven to 140C/ 285F.
Place the milk, cream, vanilla bean and seeds (if using) and over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
Remove from fire and discard the vanilla seeds.
Put a pot of water to boil.
In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and caster sugar till pale (about 2-3 minutes).
Add the vanilla extract (if using) and mix.
Pour the hot cream/milk over the egg yolk mixture, whisking well to prevent yolks from cooking.
When the mixture is well combined, strain the mixture into a jug.
Pour evenly divided into 4 *150 ml ramekins.
Line a deep roasting pan with a folded napkin and place ramekins in it.
Pour boiling water into the pan carefully, to come up three-fourths to the sides of the ramekins.
Cover the pan loosely with foil.
Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or till the custard is set but still jiggly.
Remove ramekins from the water bath and set aside to cool.
At this point, you could cover the top of each ramekin with plastic wrap and keep in fridge. Remove and bring to room temperature and gently dab any liquid off before proceeding to the next step.
Sprinkle the sugar/demerara over the surface of the custard and run a blowtorch over the surface to caramelize the sugar.
Alternately, place under a preheated broiler/grill, till the sugar bubbles and caramelizes.