Sunday, February 22, 2015

Vanilla Bean Crème brûlée

Some people get chocolates or roses for Valentine's Day. What do I get? A blow torch! I have the best husband ever. I've been wanting one of these beauties for years with a sole purpose in mind — crème brûlée.

That crispy, crackly, oh-so-beautiful caramel crust tops a luscious, creamy vanilla custard. If this stuff was on the menu at a restaurant, I had to order it. But now, with my new tool in hand, I can get torch-happy at home. I feel like this is the start of a beautiful relationship.

So let's start with the classic crème brûlée, vanilla bean.

Not only is this crème brûlée delicious, it's also incredibly easy and time-friendly. Just make the custard a day or two ahead of time, keep it in the fridge, and fire the tops just before serving. Perfect for an impressive dinner party dessert (torch-slinging is an instant guest dazzler) or a lazy night treat for two .... Or lunch. Your choice.

{Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée}
1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
6 egg yolks
pinch of slat
hot water

Special Equipment:
Culinary Blow Torch

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a large cake pan or roasting pan by lining the bottom with a cotton dishtowel.

Whisk together the egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, and the salt until foamy and light, about 2 minutes. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine cream, vanilla pod and seeds, and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Allow to steep for 15 minutes. Remove the pod after steeping.

In the prepared pan, place ramekins on top of the towel, spaced apart. Pour hot water carefully into the pan (try not to splash water into the ramekins). Fill until ramekins are 2/3 of the way submerged.

Slowly temper the egg mixture with the cream mixture by adding a little at a time and whisking well. Strain and evenly divide between ramekins, taking care not to splash custard on the sides. Cover the top of the pan tightly with foil and bake. Cooking time depends on the depth and size of your ramekins — mine took 1 hour. Rotating the pan hallway through, pulling back the foil after 20 minutes and checking the custards by gently shaking them. They are done when the custard is set around the edges and jiggly in the center. When done, remove from the water and allow to cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then chill completely in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

Sprinkle sugar on the top of the chilled custards. Swirl and shake the ramekins to create an even coating of sugar about 1/16 of an inch thick. Light the torch and slowly bring it toward the surface of the custard until the sugar just begins to melt. Circle the outer edge until the melted sugar begins to darken, then move the torch toward the center. It will smoke and maybe even catch on fire. Touch up light areas with the torch.

Serve immediately. The best part is cracking through the sugary caramelized top to the goodness within. The crust is sweet and crunchy and almost smokey, while the custard is so creamy and packed with vanilla beans.

Get the blowtorch.

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