Crème Brûlée

Goodbye, September.

For me, September has always been about three things: back-to-school, fall, and my birthday! Throughout September, we’ve primarily focused on back-to-school fashion looks, with a few birthday celebration looks thrown in. However, as it’s the last day of September, I wanted to offer one final shout out to the September Girls (and guys). Also, since it’s my birthday month, along with four other members of my family, I had to share the family favorite recipe of crème brûlée. This classic dessert is one that I make at least 3 to 4 times a year for various holiday events, including family birthdays. My go-to recipe source comes from the book, Flour, by Joanne Chang (she also runs the Flour bakery + Café in Boston). This recipe is hands-down the best that I’ve ever tried — from the delicate, creamy texture topped by that little crunch of sweetness, to the rich tones of vanilla bean. This recipe is so good, and yet, so simple to make. Try it, and let me know what you think.

Crème Brûlée Ingredients:

1 ½ cups cream

1 ½ cups half and half (if you don’t have half and half, mix equal parts cream and milk)

8 egg yolks

1 vanilla bean split lengthwise

¾ cup sugar (I use ½ cup)

½ cup sugar (for top sugar crust)

¼ tsp salt

A teapot or 6 cups of boiling water

Aluminum foil

Crème Brûlée Directions:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Place eight four-ounce ramekins in a large roasting pan with at least 3-inch high sides (I used 5 ramekins approximately 6-ounces. So it takes a little longer to cook).

In a medium saucepan, combine the cream and half and half. Use the tip of a knife to scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean directly into the pan, then add the pod. Place the pan over medium-high heat. Scald the mixture (bubbles should start to form around the edge of the pan, but the liquid is not boiling).

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until blended (save the egg whites and freeze them in a baggie for macarons, or other recipes that need egg whites. 2 TBSP equals 1 egg white). Slowly whisk in the ¾ cup (or ½ if using less sugar like I do) until combined. Slowly pour the hot cream mixture into the egg sugar mixture, a little at a time, whisking constantly. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a pitcher or liquid measuring cup. Stir in the salt.

Pour the custard into the ramekins, dividing evenly. Carefully move the pan with the ramekins to the oven. Pour hot water into the roasting pan to reach the same level as the custard in the ramekins (this is a bain-marie). Cover the pan with aluminum foil or a baking sheet.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the custard is just set. Start testing custards at around 20 minutes. Lift foil and wiggle pan. If the custards are sloshy and liquid, they needs more time. If they are jiggly like Jell-O, remove from the oven. If they don’t wiggle, they are overdone, which isn’t bad, but they won’t be as silky. Carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven. Let the custard cool in the water until cool enough to handle, then remove. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate for at least one day, or up to 4 days, before serving (Because I use bigger ramekins with fewer number of servings, it takes the custard longer to cook in my oven, about 40-45 minutes).

Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of sugar on top of each custard. Spread the sugar evenly by tilting the ramekin around. Using a kitchen torch, wave the flame back and forth over the sugar, about an inch from the surface. Burn the sugar until it starts to melt and caramelize. Move torch around and don’t linger on one spot for too long. If you don’t have a torch, preheat the boiler. Place the ramekins in a roasting pan with the custards under the broiler, ideally about 2-3 inches away from heat source. Close oven and watch the custard until the sugar melts and turns golden brown. Remove from oven.

Let sugar cool for at least 5 minutes to form a crunchy shell. The custard can also be returned to the refrigerator for a few hours before serving.

Note: If you don’t want to bother with the shell, the custard is more than good enough to enjoy on its own.

Hope you enjoy the crème brûlée. If you make it, let me know on social media, Instagram/twitter using #uttorifood. Oh, and check out Chang’s Flour cookbook here!