Crème brûlée is – without a doubt – my favourite dessert. I love the moment when you crack the crust of caramelised sugar, and the shards shift apart to reveal the creamy custard waiting beneath. I’m already happy before I even raise the first spoonful to my mouth…
Until now, all my crème brûlée moments have occurred in restaurants. But the fourth Great British Bake-off signature bake was crème brûlée, so it was time to give it a go.
My biggest concern was producing a decent crust of caramelised sugar. The contestants were limited to using the oven grill. That might work in the Bake-off tent, but our home grill is a feeble, lopsided coathanger shaped thing that stumbles over the most basic grilling challenges.
Providentially, I received a kitchen blow torch for my birthday last week. That baby easily reduced a sprinkling of caster sugar to a smoldering mass that cooled to a lovely, glassy crust.
I divided the mixture into four standard-sized Le Creuset ramekins, which resulted in generous portions. Next time I make it, I’ll divide it between six ramekins. As delicious as crème brûlée is, a little goes a long way…
(serves 4 to 6)
- 4 egg yolks
- 50g (1/4 cup) caster sugar (plus 6 tsp for the topping)
- a pinch of salt
- 450ml (about 1 3/4 cups) double cream
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste)
- Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).
- Beat the egg yolks, 50g of sugar and salt together until they thicken slightly. Set aside.
- In a small pot, whisk together the cream and vanilla seeds. Add the scraped pod to the mixture.
- Heat over medium-low until bubbles appear around the edges of the pot. Take off the heat and remove the vanilla pod.
- Very slowly whisk the warm cream into the egg mixture using a wire whisk.
- Set a fine sieve over a measuring jug and strain the custard to remove any solids.
- Divide the custard between four to six ramekins, pouring carefully to avoid creating bubbles.
- Place the ramekins in a deep roasting tray, then fill with hot water to the same height as the custard. Cover loosely with tin foil, and bake for 30-40 minutes until the custard is set around the edges but still a bit wobbly in the middle.
- Remove from the roasting tray and cool on a wire rack for half an hour before transferring (uncovered) to the fridge to chill completely.
- Once the custards are completely cold, cover with clingfilm until needed.
- When you are ready to caramelise the custards, sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar evenly over the surface of each ramekin. Either place the ramekins under a hot grill or melt the sugar using a kitchen blow-torch.
- Leave the sugar to cool and harden for a few minutes, then serve immediately before the sugar softens.