Crème Brûlée

You want to know what really drives my kids crazy?

Most of the “fancy” desserts I make leave the house. Grasshopper brownies for Christmas parties, cookies for my students, a cheesecake for a friend’s Thanksgiving. Sure, my kids get to taste. If I’m plating something, the edges I cut off are theirs, no questions asked. And frequently, the desserts are for events they attend, or for their schools, so they definitely get a piece.

But this month is the first time that almost 100% of the desserts have been strictly for them.

At first, their surprise was a little insulting.

The thirteen-year-old looking at a beautiful dessert sighs as only 13 can: “Who is that for?”

“You! It’s not like we are going somewhere!”

“Like we can eat all of it?” And then, to add to my guilt… “Even the pretty ones? We don’t have to find a messed up one?”

That may be the cooking lesson I take away from this — that it’s important sometimes to make something fancy for the people who live in this house — not because it’s a special occasion, but just because it’s a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Fast forward to today. It’s Monday morning and I am trying desperately to get a head start on the 88 Textual Analyses I have to grade this week. Each one takes about 10-15 minutes to give feedback on, and the math… I just can’t. So I put my science-teacher husband in charge of breakfast.

I walked into the kitchen to refresh my coffee and found him, propane torch in hand, caramelizing a crème brûlée for the kid who fell asleep before dessert last night.

It’s safe to say my kids are no longer dessert-deprived. I’d argue they’ve become downright spoiled. I’ve never had crème brûlée for breakfast.

Classic Crème Brûlée

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole egg
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon per creme brulee
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups heavy cream

Procedure:

  • Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the egg, egg yolks, and 1/2 cup sugar until combined (about 1 minute). (You can also do this by hand with a whisk). Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla extract, and mix one more time.
  • In a saucpan, scald the cream. Heat it until it is very hot, but not boiling. You can wait until you see tiny bubbles form around the side, or, if you’re my child, keep sticking your finger in until it almost burns you.
  • With the mixer on low, slowly add the hot cream. Begin with very small splashes of cream to “temper” the egg mixture and avoid scrambled eggs. Scrape down the sides well. You can also do this by hand, whisking the egg mixture while you slowly add the milk.
  • Pour the custard mixture into ramekins.
  • Place the ramekins on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven. Pour hot water into the baking pan until it rises half way up the side of the ramekins.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the custards are set (you can tell by jiggling the individual ramekins a bit. When they are done, they will still move a bit but not slosh).
  • Carefully remove the pan from the oven. Bring to room temperature before trying to get the ramekins out of the hot water. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Top each ramekin with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (or enough to completely cover the custard with a thin layer of sugar). Using a propane torch or crème brûlée torch, melt the sugar. It will melt, then bubble, then brown and spread over the surface. Let sit for 1-2 minutes, and a hard shell will form. Then you’re ready to serve! (You can also do this using the broiler on your oven. Position a rack very close to the burner and set the temperature to 500. Place each ramekin (no longer in the water bath) on the top shelf. Watch them very carefully! You will have less control than you would with a torch, but it will still work. )
  • Top with fresh fruit (we liked rasberries) and serve!

Notes: My youngest would like everyone to know that “crème brûlée” literally translates to burned cream, so a few dark brown spots are OK. Also, the ingredients here are really simple, so technique is everything! Go slowly and pay attention to the details! (I almost subbed milk in for the cream in this one, until he caught me. I don’t think the custardy texture would have been quite the same.)

Enjoy with the ones you love!

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