Sunday, June 13, 2010

Crème de la Crème

I've never considered myself an actual sweet tooth, but upon taking a closer look at my relationship with all things sugary, there is evidence that I am. For one, I am almost never without a tub of ice cream in the freezer, (my favourites being Soy Delicious, Udder Guy and sorbetto of any sort), and as full as I am at the end of any restaurant meal, I abide by the cliché that there is always room for dessert. But as tempting as any treat on the menu may be, if there is Crème Brulée, the decision is clear. I have always held this creamy custard in high regard, partially because of its fatty decadence, but also because I love the aroma of vanilla, and the great fun of whacking its signature sugar-crusted top. Because of its heavenly taste, I always imagined that much labour was behind the making of it.

When a friend suggested we try creating it at home, I was at first confounded by the idea. Could it really be done, and done with any justice to the French? With her encouragement and conviction that it was possible, we took on the challenge. The process was not as difficult as I imagined. All it required was focus and patience, and the motivations of a true sweet tooth. The results were surprisingly magnifique.

Recipe for Crème Brulée:
4 cups of heavy cream or whipping cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod, split and scraped
1 cup white sugar or cane sugar, divided
6 large egg yolks
8 cups hot water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a medium saucepan on medium-high heat, bring the cream and vanilla (pod and pulp) to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 15 minutes. If using a vanilla pod, remove from the mixture.

In a medium bowl, whisk 1/2 a cup of sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and colour slightly lightens. Add the cream a bit at a time, stirring continuously. Pour the mixture into 6, 7 to 8-ounce ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large cake or roasting pan and pour in the hot water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 40-45 minutes until set, but still jiggly in the center. Remove the ramekins from the pan and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Remove the Crème Brulée from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before browning the sugar. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar equally among the 6 ramekins and spread evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar to form a crusty top or broil in the oven until the sugar is caramel brown. Let sit until cool prior to serving, and then get cracking :o)