To make creme brûlée, it's going to be pretty useful to have a kitchen torch. I got one for Christmas which is was propelled me forward on this journey. It's possible to do with a broiler as well, but it's trickier. Invest in a kitchen torch, because like, why wouldn't you want to feel like a badass welder?
Here's what you need (and since my first attempt failed and I ended up having to make this twice, I recommend buying double just in case):
- 6 to 10 egg yolks. It varies because if you use organic eggs, like I did, the yolks are much smaller and you'll need more. I used six the first time and it was trouble. The next time I used 8 and it was great. 10? I think it would just be that much richer.
- 2.5 cups of heavy cream. I used whipping cream.
- Half a cup of white sugar
- Teaspoon vanilla
- Other seasonings/liqueur to taste. For instance, I added a splash of spiced rum, some star anise, and some cardamom.
Start by simmering your cream over medium heat. This is when I threw in the anise and the cardamom pods, and almost let it steep like a tea. Alton Brown says that you can scrape in a vanilla bean, but chance I would find a vanilla bean in this one horse town! Grand mariner, kahlua, frangelico….all of these would be delicious.
While it's simmering, whisk your egg yolks and sugar together. This is called creaming. Whisk quite a bit until it turns light and fluffy. By now, your cream should be just below a boil. Don't let it reach a full boil; remove it from the heat. Scoop out any seed pods.
Verrrrrry verrrrrrrrrrrry slowwwwly add a drizzle of hot cream into your eggs, whisking all the while. You do this very slowly so that the eggs don't scramble. Add another ladle-ful and keep whisking. When the egg mixture is basically the same temp as the cream, you can reverse the pouring and pour the egg/cream into the just-cream. Keep whisking. You'll probably get some froth and foam on top of the custard (that's what it is now) at this point. Scoop it off if you can with a spoon.
Heat your oven to 375. In a roasting pan or deep casserole pan, set your ramekins on a wet kitchen cloth (this is so that they don't slip around). Pour the custard into the ramekins, until about a little over halfway full. Next, pour hot water all around the sides of the ramekins like a bath. The hot water should come about halfway up the ramekins. Shove it all in the oven and walk away for about 30-40 mins. They're done when they jiggle a little in the middle: Jello jiggle, not liquid jiggle. Pull the roasting pan out and let them cool for 15 mins in the water bath. Then move them to the fridge for the next few hours.
When ready to serve, sprinkle the top with a generous coating of white sugar. Turn your torch on and make small circles over the ramekin to melt, turning occasionally to let the molten sugar coat the whole surface. It'll smell like burning but don't be afraid. Let sugar harden for just a moment or two before serving. How do you know you've succeeded? Knock on the top with a spoon. You should hear a tap-tap sound before a delicious crack!