Recipe by Sarah Phillips; Food styling and photos by Kelly Hong © 2001 Sarah Phillips CraftyBaking.com
Variations: Espresso Creme Brulee; Ginger Creme Brulee
This recipe is one of the best I have ever had. Crème Brulee means "burnt cream" and contains heavy cream and numerous egg yolks, so it is richer than its relatives. Crème brulee derives its name from the thin, crispy, caramelized layer of sugar that sits atop its creamy base. This recipe is adapted from Sirio Maccioni's New York Le Cirque's Restaurant.
CUSTARD RECIPE HELP
4 cups heavy cream
1 whole vanilla bean
2 teaspoons orange zest, optional
1 pinch salt
8 large egg yolks
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
16 teaspoons turbinado or light brown sugar
1. Position an oven shelf in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Arrange 8 three-quarter-cup ramekins in a roasting pan.
2. In a large saucepan, place the heavy cream. Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds, using the back of the knife. Add the seeds, vanilla bean to the cream, along with the finely-grated orange zest and salt. Whisk everything together and heat the cream mixture over medium-low heat. Stirring often, let the cream come to a simmer. Take from heat.
3. In a large heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is thick and pale yellow.
4. Once the cream comes to a very gentle boil, add a small amount to the egg yolk mixture and whisk to temper them. Continue to whisk as you slowly add the rest of the cream.
5. Strain into a pitcher or large measuring cup, skimming off any foam or bubbles. Discard the vanilla bean and any orange zest, if using.
6. Pull out the oven shelf. Transfer the ramekins to the oven shelf. Pour the custard into the ramekins, filling them almost to the top.
7. Carefully pour boiling or very hot tap water into the roasting pan until it reaches at least half way up the sides of the ramekins.
8. Cover the pan loosely with foil and bake for about 1 hour 15 - 20 minutes, or until the custards are firm at the edges, but still a bit wobbly in the center.
To check the custard, use a pair of tongs to gently shake the ramekin. When done, the custard should have a nice, uniform jiggle. Remove the custard from the water bath and place onto a cooling rack.
If any of the custards seem slightly underdone, leave them in the waterbath for another minute or so out of the oven. They will continue to cook a bit in the hot water.
9. Once cooled, place them into the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight to set.
They will keep for up to 2 days.
When ready to serve, set the ramekins on a baking sheet and blot the surfaces of the custards to remove any condensation.
Using a small sieve, sprinkle 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar over each custard in a thin, even layer. Caramelize the sugar using either the Torch or Broiler Method.
Torch method: For best results, use a small, hand-held torch, which can be found in any hardware store, to melt sugar. If you don't have a torch, place under the broiler until sugar melts. Let cool for a minute to allow the sugar to harden, before serving.
Broiler Method: Preheat the broiler. Broil the custards as close to the heat as possible until the sugar is evenly caramelized, 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve at once.
After the sugar tops have been caramelized, serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
Espresso Creme Brulee
Omit the vanilla. Crush 1/2 cup espresso beans into coarse pieces, add to the cream/milk, and heat to a simmer. Remove from the heat; infuse for 5 min. Strain and proceed.
Ginger Creme Brulee
Omit the vanilla. Cut a 3-inch piece of fresh ginger into very thin slices, add to the cream/milk, and heat to a simmer. Remove from the heat; infuse for 15 to 20 min. Strain, discard ginger, bring back to a simmer, and proceed.