Even before you buy the ingredients, walk.. no, run to your local store to buy a blow torch. Now the purists will say that you should only use a butane torch as it’s the only thing that is safe for food. Apparently, if you use a propane torch, it will leave all sorts of residue on your creme brulee which is bad.
I look at things a little more pragmatically. For $40, you can buy a little, and I do mean little, creme brulee torch that will take forever to caramelize your sugar or you can buy a big propane torch from a hardware store that’s so powerful you could do some welding while waiting for your creme brulees to set. Given that I’ve seen the propane torch used in some very good restaurants, I have no qualms about using it for my own cooking. It’s also very convenient when you just want to be a pyromaniac.
Mixing the ingredients isn’t difficult, but you will need about an hour for these things to set in the oven. You’ll need to chill these about 7-8 hours after setting. Also note that you can scale down this recipe as needed. This recipe will make about 16 creme brulees.
1.5 cups sugar
1.5 liters heavy cream
15 egg yolks from extra large eggs
Vanilla beans or vanilla extract
If you’ve never separated an egg before, what you’ll want to do is crack the egg and slowly let a bulk of the egg white pass out. Then transfer the yolk between the two halves while skimming off the white.
Mix the yolks thoroughly with the sugar and then mix in the cream. Use a whisk, but be sure not to whisk in bubbles. If you have fresh vanilla beans, slice the pods in half and scrape the beans into the mixture. Otherwise, dump in some vanilla extract.
Pour the mixture into ramekins and place them in a deep pan. Put it into the oven and fill the pan with water. Ideally, you’ll want the water level to be higher than the tops of the mixture in the ramekins. This helps to prevent the tops from browning. Bake at 325 degrees F for about an hour or so. If you have a gas oven, it’ll run a little hot, so bump the temp there down to 275.
You know the creme brulees are set when sides are firm, but the middle jiggles. Shake the tray to test it. You’ll want to check in 10 minute intervals after 45 minutes or so. Place in the fridge overnight.
Right before you’re about to serve them, sprinkle them with a thin layer of sugar and use the torch to melt the sugar. Take it nice and easy now because the sugar burns easily and will continue to burn even after the heat is removed. Be patient and you’ll get a nice thin crust.
If you don’t have a torch, you can also put these on the top rack of an oven to broil them, but results will not be as cool.. nor will it be as fun.
Top them with raspberries if you’d like and serve immediately. Under no circumstances do you caramelize the sugar ahead of hand! It’ll just turn soggy after a while.
If you’re wondering what you do with the egg whites, get creative. You can make French Toast, Omelettes or steam the eggs for a custard.