Crème brûlée which translates to “burnt cream” is one of the easiest desserts in the world to make. The only trick is knowing how long to cook the custard. Not cooked enough and the custard will remain runny. Cooked too long and the custard will be rubbery instead of silky smooth.
It’s easy to test though when it’s cooked just right. When the center barely jiggles they are perfectly baked. Carefully remove the pan from the oven. Using a wide off-set spatula remove the ramekins from the hot water and set them on a dry towel to cool. Once cool, refrigerate them for up to four days.
Even though I use convection for 99% of my cooking; when baking custards or souffles I stick with using conventional heat. The fan tends to wreak havoc by either blowing the tops off of the souffles or cooking the top of a custard before the the interior is cooked.
I found too that using a shallow vessel makes it easier to cook the custard to the correct consistency. Plus a shallow vessel gives you more surface for the burnt sugar top.
One caveat to the shallow vessel recommendation, I must’ve loaned out some of my ramekins as I was short two the last time I made this recipe. I didn’t want to discard the remaining 10 ounces so I looked for the next best option; which ended up being a couple of latté cups. They actually worked quite well.
Lastly, if you can’t get your hands on turbinado or demerara sugar used granulated sugar instead for the brunt sugar topping.
4 cups heavy cream, divided
2/3 cups granulated sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise
12 large egg yolks
6 -8 tablespoons turbinado or demerara sugar
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line a hotel or roasting pan with a kitchen towel and arrange eight 4 or 5 ounce brûlée ramekins on the towel.
Combine 3 cups cream, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. (Set the remaining cup of cream back in the refrigerator.) With a paring knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean; adding both the seeds and the pod to the pan. Bring the mixture to simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally so that the sugar dissolves, the pod remains submerged in the cream and to ensure that the cream doesn’t boil over.
Once the cream is at a simmer remove the pan from the heat and it let steep for at least 15 minutes or up to ½ hour to infuse the vanilla. When ready to proceed with the recipe bring a kettle of water to boil. Stir the remaining cup of cold cream into the other cream mixture. And, separate the eggs into a large bowl, reserving the whites for another use.
Immediately whisk the yolks until combined. Whisk about 1 cup of the cream mixture into yolks until loosened and combined; repeat with another 1 cup cream. Add remaining cream and whisk until evenly colored and thoroughly combined.
Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into 2-quart pitcher (or clean medium bowl); discard any solids in strainer. Pour or ladle mixture into ramekins, dividing it evenly among each of them.
Place the baking pan with the ramekins on the oven rack; pour boiling water into the pan, being careful not to splash water into ramekins, until water reaches two-thirds height of ramekins.
Bake until centers of custards are no longer sloshy and just barely jiggle, about 25 to 30 minutes for shallow fluted ramekins. Begin checking for doneness though about 5 minutes before the suggested time.
Using a wide off-set spatula transfer ramekins to wire rack; cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Set ramekins on rimmed baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or up to 2 days.
Uncover ramekins; if condensation has collected on custards, place paper towel on surface to soak up moisture. Sprinkle each with about a 1 tablespoon of turbinado or demerara sugar; tilt and tap ramekin for even coverage. Ignite torch and caramelize sugar. Refrigerate ramekins, uncovered, to re-chill, 30 to 45 minutes (but no longer) and serve.