Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee

Mark loves creme brulee. Years ago, I tried making it at home but was overwhelmed by the quantity the recipe produced. Then I started experimenting with downsizing and discovered that it is incredibly easy.

What’s the key? A teeny, tiny pan. It makes two servings in traditional shallow ramekins, or four if you use little tempered glass serving containers. I use heat resistant votif holders. It’s an innovative way to offer bite-sized portions to friends at gatherings.

  • Creme Brulee
  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: Moderate
WHAT YOU NEED WHAT TO DO WHY
4 large egg yolks
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
In a 1-quart mixing bowl, whisk together until loose and frothy (30-60 seconds).

Tip: Start with cold eggs (they separate easily). Crack each shell in half, moving yolk back and forth between halves, allowing the yolk to fall into one bowl and white to fall into another. Cover and refrigerate whites for another use.

Egg yolks are essential for a rich, smooth custard. Whisking the yolks with a little cream helps eliminate potential lumps.
¾ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup granulated sugar
⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
Whisk all together in a 1-quart tri-ply saucepan. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer, where bubbles appear around the pan edges (2-3 minutes); remove from heat. To temper yolks, add hot mixture to the egg mixture in a slow stream while continuously whisking. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan. Sugar inhibits heat-induced yolk curdling. Preheating cream minimizes the time it takes to heat the yolks, reducing any “eggy” flavor. Tempering heats eggs quickly but gently with little risk of curdling.
  Return saucepan to medium heat, stirring gently but continuously with a bamboo spoon. As custard thickens, reduce heat to low. Continue stirring until custard coats the spoon and an instant-read thermometer registers 175-180°F (4-5 minutes). Promptly remove from heat. Holding eggs at 160°F for 1 minute sterilizes them, but overheating risks curdling and extended cooking brings out an unpleasant “eggy” flavor.
½ teaspoon pure vanilla Stir into the custard. Push through a little mesh strainer into dishes, promptly seal surfaces with squares of plastic wrap. Refrigerate 4-8 hours to age before serving. Straining ensures a perfectly smooth custard. Sealing with plastic prevents a skin from forming. Aging promotes smoothness in custards.
Up to 2 teaspoons granulated sugar Sift out any lumps. Distribute evenly over custards; shake from side to side to even out the layer. Areas with a thicker layer of sugar tend to burn more than shallow areas. Brown sugar caramelizes faster but is more inclined to burn.
  Use a hand-held butane torch in a rapid circular motion to caramelize the sugar into crispy crusts. Be bold, and get the flame close enough so that the sugar caramelizes within 15-20 seconds for votif-sized servings, and 20-30 seconds for traditional servings. The goal is to caramelize the sugar quickly to avoid curdling the custard. Some recipes recommend using a broiler instead of a torch, but it tends to curdle custards.

Additional Testing Notes: The egg to liquid ratio is too high in this recipe to use corn starch or other thickeners.

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