Last weekend I attended a cooking class at Sur La Table—Four Desserts Everyone Should Know How To Make… I would have signed up for the creme brûlée alone. Can we agree, creme brûlée is heaven sent?
I’m lucky to live smack dab between two great cooking schools (Sur La Table and Central Market), and I take advantage of this as often as possible. Here’s the thing about cooking classes—learning to make a dish hands-on with a chef is so much more educational than simply reading the recipe at home. Nuances and special tricks may not come across in print. Plus being surrounded by a chef kitchen and playing with all those cool utensils is a huge bonus.
Yesterday was my final exam as I attempted to recreate creme brûlée in my own kitchen with my (not so cool) utensils. I gave myself a solid B+. (I would have made an A, but I got a bit carried away with the final sprinkle of sugar ascribing to the more is better theory.) Overall the taste was spot-on, the texture creamy, the molten caramel crisp. Yes, I’m patting myself on the back.
This recipe really is simple. I can’t believe I waited so long to learn. (Recipe courtesy of Sur La Table.)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 8 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup (plus 2 extra tablespoons to top) granulated sugar, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Move oven rack to the center.
- Pour milk and cream into a small heavy saucepan and heat to scald over medium-high heat. To scald, heat until bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan. Remove pan from heat.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, 1/3 cup sugar, salt and vanilla paste. While whisking, slowly pour hot milk mixture into the egg mixture. Do not stop whisking. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. (If you do this too quickly, the eggs will cook upon contact with the hot cream mixture.) Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup with a spout to remove any overcooked egg pieces. (There will be a few tiny bits.) This will also help accelerate the cooling down process.
- Place 6 (4 ounce) ramekins inside a rectangular baking dish and fill the ramekins with the custard mixture.
- Using hot tap water, pour enough water into the baking dish to reach half-way up the side of the ramekins. This hot water bath will insulate the custard and keep the eggs from cooking too fast.
- Bake about 40 minutes until the custard trembles or wobbles when gently shaken. If the mixture doesn't appear to be set, continue baking a few minutes more while monitoring.
- Remove ramekins from the water bath, place on a cooling rack for 30 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator to set.
- Before serving: Sprinkle the surface of each custard with 2 teaspoons of the remaining sugar. Shake the cup to gently distribute the sugar evenly—make sure it covers the custard completely. Any exposed custard will blacken under the torch's flame. Light the torch, move the flame over the sugar in a circular motion until most of the sugar has melted and looks like tiny water droplets. Continue heating until the sugar turns a deep golden brown. The molten caramel will bubble and smoke then solidify into a crisp surface as it cools. Refrigerate 10 minutes before serving.
If you don't have Vanilla Paste, buy it. The ratio is the same as Vanilla Extract, but Vanilla Paste leaves the vanilla bean flecks in whatever you are cooking. If you don't have a torch for caramelizing, you can use a broiler. But a torch is fun.
Grace Grits and Gardening
P.S. Freeze all those egg whites you won’t need for this recipe and make angel food cake later…
“I think every woman should have a blowtorch.”
― Julia Child