If you’re like most people, you’re equally impressed and intimidated by this dessert. They are actually way easier to make than you might think! Just read the steps thoroughly before starting and stay clear headed for the torching part (or broiling if that’s what you have), and you’ll be the hero of the evening!
2-1/6 cup (500 g) heavy cream
1/3 cup (60 g) granulated sugar
5-1/2 egg yolks (100 g)
1 tsp. vanilla paste or scrape the beans from one vanilla bean
pinch of table salt
1/4 cup (40 g) granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 325°F.
For this recipe, I would strongly suggesting weighing all your ingredients rather than measuring, but I’ve included both in case you don’t have that option.
In a heavy bottomed pan, bring the cream and salt to a scald. Once off the heat, add the vanilla.
In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar and egg yolks vigorously until pale. Temper the eggs by adding small amounts of the hot cream to the egg mixture, a little at a time, and whisk until thoroughly incorporated. (Both hand whisking and electric mixers work equally well).
This next step allows for even baking of the custards:
Set a large measuring cup or pourable bowl on a digital scale and zero it out. Strain the mixture into it, remove the strainer and note the weight of the hot cream mixture (it will be roughly around 665 g). Divide that number by the number of ramekins you are using so you know exactly how much to pour in each one. Then set the ramekins one at a time on the scale, zeroing it out for each one, and pour in the hot mixture. Example:
For four ramekins: 665 g / 4 = 166 g per ramekin
For six ramekins: 665 g / 6 = 111 g per ramekin).
Note: If you don’t have a scale, fill them about 2/3rds full.
Set your ramekins in a large shallow bottomed baking dish (with sides).
Using a large measuring cup filled with hot tap water (not boiling), carefully pour the water around the custards, taking care not to splash any water onto the custards. Pour until the water level is even with the custard level of the ramekins.
Set the baking dish in the preheated oven carefully and bake at 325°F for 40 minutes.
How to know when they’re ready
The insides should jiggle ever so slightly and the outside rim should be set. You can also insert a digital thermometer: 171°F is the goal.
Carefully remove the dishes from their water bath and let them cool on the counter for 20 minutes or so. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 3-4 hours (or overnight) until cold.
Browning the top (the Brûlée part!)
The brilliance of this dessert is the magic that happens when you either torch or broil sugar on the top of the dessert. Crisping the sugar top and then punching your spoon into it to get to the creamy vanilla custard creates quite a WOW factor!
Timing is everything here. Keep the custards refrigerated up until serving time and then just before serving, sprinkle about 1 T of granulated sugar on the top of each custard as evenly as you can and torch with a culinary torch until the sugar is evenly browned.
You can also set them on a sheet pan and broil them 3 inches from the broiler element for around 4-5 minutes. Watch them carefully as they can easily burn!
Eat within two hours of browning the top (but it’s more dramatic when served immediately!) Enjoy!!
Recipe adapted from Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen