Cold Snap! So tonight we had one of our all-time favorite comfort meals, Bob’s Chicken . We concluded our meal with my personal favorite dessert, crème brûlée. (Though molten chocolate cake  takes the second place position with the slimmest of margins.) I’m not thrilled with the picture quality for this recipe, so I’ll definitely be making this again in the not so distant future to hop to capture it’s essence better. Partially, this is because I absolutely can not stand to look at these heart ramekins anymore. I thought they were precious when I bought them on Valentine’s Day many moons ago, but now I’m just over them. Luckily, we’ve managed to break 3 of the set of 4 over time, so what’s left is just this one heart shaped ramekin looking oh so provincial. My oddly fervent distaste for certain dishes is in large part due to the fact that I like food to be the focal point of the presentation, not the extra-spectacularly artistic medium on which I served it. Crème brûlée is a powerful presentation in itself with the light and toasted caramelized surface over the perfectly smooth pudding texture below. It’s the edible and visual representation of the opposites attract proverb. Thus inherently able to stand alone without saccharine dishware. So for the photo, I’ll apologize.
As for creating the spectacular caramel crust, I highly recommend a torch . You can caramelize it using your oven broiler, but the key lies in getting the brulees so close to the burner it’s difficult and definitely hazardous. The pictured version was done in a broiler, just to see if I could pull it off, but my advice is strongly in favor of the torch. The torch also works much more quickly, enabling you to maintain a chilled temperature of your pudding, protecting it’s delicate consistency. One of the absolute best things about this dessert is, if you plan in advance, which I *rarely* manage to do, these can be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Just pull them out, let rest on the counter 10-15 minutes, top with the powdered sugar, and torch the surface. Dessert to the table in minutes. I wouldn’t recommend torching them immediately out of the fridge, the rapid change in temperature from the torch could shatter your ramekins.
Crème Brûlée makes 4 small or 3 medium ramekins
1 c. heavy cream
1 c. half and half
3 egg yolks
1/4 c. sugar
1 vanilla bean
powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 325. Pour creams into a sauce pan, then split the vanilla bean and scrape the pulp into the cream. Add the vanilla bean hull, then bring cream to a boil, stirring with a wooden spatula continuously. Cover and remove from heat, letting stand 15 minutes. Remove vanilla bean hull and discard.
In a bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar. Whisk until color begins to lighten and sugar is thoroughly combined. Pour a teeny bit of the warm cream into the eggs, whisking continuously. Continue adding very small portions of the cream to eggs, whisking continuously until all combined. Pour into ramekins. Place ramekins in a glass casserole, then pour warm water in casserole to soak your ramekins in a bath. Put casserole in oven and bake for 45 minutes. Check ramekins by wiggling to ensure that sides are firm but center wiggles, then remove or cook more depending on your results. Let cool on counter for 15 minutes, then chill in refrigerator – at least 3 hours, up to two days in advance.
Sprinkle custard surfaces with powdered sugar, then use torch to caramelize sugar until light brown. Serve immediately!