Creme Brulee is one of my all-time favorite desserts. It is a heavenly creamy custard topping by the thin, crispy layer of caramelized sugar that you crack through to get to that silkiness beneath. It comes in many flavors and is something that Troy and I order when we are eating out nearly every time it is offered on the menu! Why it took me so long to make it at home, I can’t begin to tell you. It is really quite easy. It does require a small butane kitchen torch but I think this will be a nice addition or my culinary arsenal so why not? Plus they are relatively cheap!
So I finally broke down, bought the kitchen torch, and made this luxurious dessert for the first time to celebrate Troy’s birthday this year. I thought it would be a nice, unexpected surprise (and it was)! He is so used to me making cheesecakes, pies, tarts and cakes at this point that it is sometimes hard for me to come up with something special to him, since he is so often my guinea pig. This sure did the trick! I chose to flavor it like egg nog (nutmeg with a touch of cloves and cinnamon) for two reasons: 1) His b-day is on the 26th so we’re in that holiday spirit and 2) egg nog is one of his favorites! Later I realized this was an even better move because on Thanksgiving at my dad’s it’s becoming something of a tradition for me to bring egg nog in some form and for us all to do shots or a tasting of it! I didn’t make homemade egg nog this year (YET) so this fit the bill! I had to pry two ramekins of the stuff away from Troy but it was for a good cause so he was a good sport. Thank you for sharing! 😉
As I said before, this is pretty easy to make as long as you are attentive. You heat the cream and sugar on the stove and you must stir this frequently or it will scorch or even burn. Bad. Then you need to temper the eggs with the hot cream gradually or you will make scrambled eggs instead of a beautiful custard base. Bad. Strain your custard base to remove any bits of egg or egg white that found their way into the mix to make this perfectly smooth. Make sure you do this straining step to ensure your creme brulees are the silken dream they are intended to be. You then make a simple mixture of superfine sugar and brown sugar (you can use regular granulated sugar instead but it won’t melt as evenly), sprinkle this over your chilled custards and torch away until it is nice and caramelized! There may be some smoke, don’t worry. This is such fun. Tee hee hee…. The custards will keep in the fridge for a few days so these are really perfect for entertaining because you torch them to serve as needed, to the sheer delight of your guests!
Troy was tickled that I made these for him but even more excited by the prospect that I, with my new kitchen torch, would be able to make many, many more in various flavors in the future!
This creme brulee recipe is adapted from the one in Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours.
Egg Nog Crème Brulee
*Prepare at least 4 hours (or overnight) before serving
*Makes 8 6-ounce servings/ramekins
*Special equipment needed: ¾ cup or 6 ounce ramekins, kitchen torch or salamander (oven broiler in a pinch but won’t work as well, especially those on electric ranges)
Ingredients for the Custard:
- 1 quart heavy cream
- ½ cup granulated white sugar
- 8 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (use more or less to taste)
- ¼ tsp. ground cloves
- Pinch of ground cinnamon
Ingredients for the sugar topping:
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- ½ cup superfine white sugar
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F with a rack in the center position
- Place the egg yolks in a heat-proof medium bowl and beat together
- Place the cream and sugar in a medium saucepan
- Heat the cream over medium heat, stirring almost constantly with a silicone spatula until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is very hot but not simmering
- Temper the egg yolks with a ladle full of the hot cream mixture, whisking to incorporate. Add another couple of ladles of cream, whisking again. Continue until all of the cream has been incorporated with the eggs
- Whisk in the vanilla, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon
- Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into another large bowl/measuring bowl (using one with a pouring lip or spout will be helpful) to remove any lumps- do NOT skip this step for a smooth crème brulee!
- Place ramekins in a shallow roasting pan
- Pour the mixture evenly into the 6 ramekins
- Use a small spoon to skim any bubbles off the surfaces of the custards
- Place the pan on the center oven rack and pull it slightly out of the oven
- Pour hot tap water in the roasting pan so that it comes half-way up the sides of the ramekins. Be careful not to splash water into any of the ramekins
- Slide the rack carefully back into the oven and bake until the custards are just set, about 45 minutes. A tiny portion in the center may still look uncooked but this is OK.
- Carefully remove the ramekins from the oven and then from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely
- Cover each and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
- To make the sugar topping sift the two sugars together into a small bowl, pushing the brown sugar through the sieve to remove any lumps.
- Sprinkle or sift an even layer of sugar over the custards you are ready to serve (about 1/8 inch thick). Use the bottom of a second ramekin to push the sugar into a flat layer gently.
- Ignite your butane torch and heat the sugar with the flame until it evenly melted and caramelized, pointing it at an angle almost parallel to the surface of the custard and moving it around in an effort to caramelize the sugar as quickly as possible
- Serve immediately