Creme brulee is one of those desserts that I really like, but I always seem to forget about. Whenever I go to make desserts for myself or my family, creme brulee barely ever crosses my mind, even though it’s super easy to make and delicious. Maybe it’s the copious amounts of heavy cream that keeps me away. Who knows? But if you’re looking for something easy to make that’s sure to impress this holiday season, this is definitely the recipe for you!
You can use either vanilla extract or vanilla beans in this recipe. In my case, my vanilla beans were in my house in Big Rapids, and I was cooking this at my parents’ house in Lansing, so I opted for the extract. However, if you’re going to use extract, make sure it’s the real thing, and not imitation vanilla flavoring. The real stuff is more expensive, but the taste is so much better. It’s definitely worth the few extra bucks, especially when vanilla is the main flavor of the dish. I highly recommend going with Nielsen-Massey Mexican Vanilla, which you can find on amazon.com or at Williams-Sonoma.
This recipe is the easiest one I’ve found so far, and it makes an incredibly smooth, rich custard, without anything more than a little egg cracking and whisking. In order to get the crispy sugar crust on top, which is what separates creme brulee from custard, you can either get a kitchen torch or use the broiler on your oven. I recommend getting the torch. First of all, having a torch in your kitchen that you actually can use for cooking is way beyond cool in my book. Second, sugar can go from browned and delicious to burnt and disgusting in a matter of seconds, and a torch will help you control that a lot better than the broiler. It’s also really handy in browning merangues or marshmallows for indoor s’mores!
Vanilla Creme Brulee
6 egg yolks
6 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract or one vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out
1 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
4 tbsp. sugar, for topping
1) Preheat oven to 275 degrees and grease six (1/2 cup) ramekins.
2) Whisk together egg yolks and 6 tbsp. sugar. Add the vanilla extract or the scraped out vanilla bean seeds, whisk until combined.
3) Whisk in the heavy whipping cream. Pour the custard mixture into the six prepared ramekins.
4) Lay one sheet of paper towel in the bottom of a large roasting pan or baking dish and then place the ramekins in the dish (the paper towel will keep the ramekins from sliding around). Fill the pan with hot water until it reaches halfway up the outside of the ramekins.
5) Carefully place the pan in the oven, and bake for 30-40 minutes. The custards should be set around the edges, but the middles will still be jiggly.
6) Once cooled to room temperature, remove the ramekins from the water bath and refrigerate at least 2-3 hours until they are completely chilled.
7) Right before eating, sprinkle enough granulated sugar to coat the top of each dish. Use the torch to caramelize the sugar so it forms a hard, dark brown crust on the top. Or, broil the custards until the sugar is caramelized, watching carefully the entire time.