I love crème brûlée . My first attempt to make it last year was a disaster. The custard wasn't smooth and we couldn't get a nice, crusty topping. I was so happy when I saw a recipe for it in my Cook’s Illustrated cookbook. There instructions are clear and easy to follow. I made these for Valentine’s Day and they turned out absolutely perfect. The custard was so creamy and smooth, I was sad that I had only made two. Usually, I’m unable to finish desserts and Mr. Surly eats the last couple bites. But I had no problem polishing off this dessert.
I was going to use the other half of my vanilla bean to make vanilla sugar, but now I think I’ll just make two more of these.
If I left out the espresso powder, this dessert would be approved to eat on my low oxalate diet. But since I haven't started that yet, I left it in; gotta get in all the "bad" high oxalate foods before I have to go low oxalate.
Espresso Crème Brûlée
1 c heavy cream, chilled
3 Tbl granulated sugar
1 (~3 in) vanilla bean, (I cut a long vanilla bean in half and used one half)
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
½ heaping tsp instant espresso power
1 Tbl turbinado sugar
Preheat oven 300 F. Place a towel in the bottom of an 8x8’ metal baking pans. Set your two ramekins on the towels. Bring a kettle of water to boil, set aside.
Split vanilla bean in halve lengthwise, scrape out the seeds with a small paring knife, and add to ½ c in a small saucepan. Add sugar and pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat, cover, and allow to steep for 15 minutes.
After steeping, pour in the remaining ½ c cream and stir. Place the egg yolks in a mixing bowl and slowly whisk in about half the hot cream into the eggs, keep whisking to temper the eggs until smooth. Then whisk in the remaining cream until combined. Strain the custard through a fine mesh strainer into a 1 c glass liquid measuring cup. Pour into ramekins.
Pour enough water from the tea kettle to reach halfway up the ramekin sides. Bake until the custard centers are just barely set (still a bit jiggly), about 30 minutes.
Remove pan from oven and, using tongs, carefully remove the ramekins from the pan. Allow to cool to room temperature, about an hour.
Place a paper towel on top of each ramekin, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
When ready to serve, remove ramekins. The paper towel should have caught any condensation, but if there are still beads of water on top of the custard, blot dry. Add ½ tsp turbinado sugar to each ramekin, then shake ramekin to spread the sugar in an even layer, tap out any excess sugar.
Now it’s time to torch and caramelize the top. (side note: I use this bernzOmatic micro torch,recommended by Cook’s Illustrated, I bought last year at Home Depot, for $20, maybe less). Ignite your torch, and sweep the flame from the perimeter of the custard to the center, keeping the flame about 2 inches above the ramekin, until sugar is bubbling and golden. I have to admit, that I never do this step of torching. I can’t be trusted with fire while heavily medicated, so this has always been Mr. Surly’s job. But the instructions above are from Cook’s Illustrated, and they usually know the best way.
Serve immediately, or return to fridge for up to 45 minutes to chill custard.
Source: America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2010