Resisting a rich, creamy, vanilla-laced egg-custard topped with a crackly layer of caramelized sugar is not something many people can do. I certainly don't have that kind of will-power. For us custard lovers, creme brulee and its cousin, creme caramel (flan), are the definition of decadent. Could anything possibly make it more tempting? Heck yea. Throw in a handful of freshly-picked blueberries, or, blackberries, or raspberries, or a combination of all three.
A bit about creme brulee: Literally translated, "burnt cream" is a silky-smooth egg custard that is gently baked/steamed in a porcelain mold or in individual ramekins at a moderate temperature in a "bain marie" (water bath). Just before it is served chilled or at room temperature, the top is sprinkled with brown or granulated sugar which is quickly caramelized under a broiler or with a blow torch. The caramelized sugar becomes a brittle, crackly shell -- a tasty contrast to the creamy custard below. Cracking through the top with ones spoon gives this dish its rustic, fun appeal, which, is the direct opposite of it's more sophisticated, slightly-harder to prepare cousin: creme caramel -- which gets turned out of the mold onto a serving plate to expose the custard, elegantly-glazed and exquisitely-sauced with the golden caramel from the bottom. Both desserts are eaten around the world but were made famous in the latter part of the 20th century in French restaurants. FYI: Here is the USA, July 21st is National Creme Brulee Day!
1 large egg
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon pure blueberry extract
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2-3/4 cup turbinado sugar, for topping, 2 tablespoons per ramekin (Note: Turbinado sugar is a minimally-refined cane sugar. Because of its color, it's often mistaken for brown sugar, but it's made differently. Many consider it healthier than regular sugar, but, that's not why I like it. Its large crystals make it great for topping cookies and it's commonly used in graham crackers. It also caramelizes beautifully. Feel free to substitute light brown sugar.)
~ Step 1. Place 8, 6-ounce ramekins in the bottom of a 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan. Prepare a "bain-marie", or "water bath", by filling the baking pan with enough tepid water to half the height of the ramekins.
Note: Cooking in a "bain-marie", or a "water bath", is a technique designed to gently cook, either in the oven or on the stovetop, delicate dishes such as custards, sauces and savory mousses without separating or curdling them. It can also be used to keep delicate sauces and foods warm.
~ Step 5. Place cream mixture on the stovetop over medium-high heat, and whisking almost constantly, bring the mixture to a steaming, just short of simmering state. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly, 5 minutes.
Note: Adding too much hot cream mixture at first can cause the eggs to "scramble", so error on the side of less for the first couple of additions. The technical term for this is called "tempering" the egg mixture. It simply heats them up very slowly so they don't start to cook!
After tempering the eggs with 3, 1/4 cup ladlefuls, whisk in all the rest of the cream. You will have 3 cups of flavorful egg custard base.
~ Step 8. Place baking pan on center rack of preheated 320-325 degree oven and bake for 40-45 minutes. Custard will be just set in the center and just beginning to brown, or, ever-so-slightly brown on top.
Do not over bake!
Remove from oven and cool completely, in bain-marie, about 2 hours. Remove ramekins from water bath and dry them off.
~ Step 9. Cover each one with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3-4 hours and up to 3-4 days. On an as-needed or as-wanted basis, remove as many as you need or want from refrigerator. Top with sugar and broil as directed below. Do not re-refrigerate brulee with caramelized tops.
Special Equipment List: 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan; 8, 6-ounce ramekins; 1-quart measuring container; whisk; 1-quart saucepan
Cook's Note: ~ Tapioca Pudding: Just like GrandMa used to Make! ~ is another creamy favorite. ~ There's Fruit on the Bottom of My Tapioca Pudding ~ is one of my berry delicious ways to serve it. Get the recipes in Categories 7 or 12!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)