How to make the perfect creme brulee

The perfect creme brulee is a culinary feat, and one that most online pastry students look forward to learning. Five simple ingredients come together as both an art and a science to become a classic French dessert.

So, how can you master this much-loved treat? Here’s what you need to know:

How to make creme brulee

To make a traditional vanilla creme brulee, you’ll need:

  • Egg yolks.
  • Sugar.
  • Heavy cream.
  • Vanilla bean (vanilla extract also works).
  • Salt.

You’ll also need oven-safe ramekins, a baking pan of water and a kitchen torch. If you don’t have a torch, don’t worry; the broiler on your oven works as a decent substitute.

Martha Stewart recommends heating your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, boiling a kettle of water and placing your ramekins into a roasting or baking pan before you begin mixing ingredients. Timing is essential with creme brulees, so it’s best to have these ready to go as soon as your custard is done.

Caramelized sugar is an important attribute to any creme brulee.The perfect creme brulee has a brittle top of caramelized sugar.

Now it’s time to start cooking. Pour your heavy cream, vanilla bean and salt into a saucepan over low heat. If you’re using extract instead of vanilla bean, hold off on adding it right away. Warm up the mixture until it’s just hot and let sit for a few minutes. Discard the bean or add the extract at this point, The New York Times suggested.

In a bowl, beat your egg yolks with the sugar. You won’t need the whites for this decadent dessert, so feel free to put these back in your fridge to use with something else. Pour about a quarter of your warm cream mixture into the yolks and stir. This process is called tempering and prevents the eggs from curdling.

Once the eggs are tempered – meaning the warm cream has been whisked into the egg mixture thoroughly – either pour the eggs into your pot with the rest of your cream, or ladle the rest of the cream into your eggs. Either way, you’ll end up with all ingredients in one completely combined, warm solution.

Now, divide your mixture evenly among your ramekins. Fill the roasting pan or baking dish with the boiling water from the kettle. The waterline should reach halfway up the sides of your ramekins. Carefully place the tray in your heated oven – try not to splash your cream with the water! Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. They’re done when the custard has set – it still jiggles when you shake the pans, but it’s not a liquid anymore.

Creating the perfect brittle top

Before you make that crunchy top, your custard will need to cool completely. Remove each ramekin from the hot water bath and set on a cooling rack for about a half hour. Then, cover each with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator. They should be ready after about two hours, but you can keep them in the fridge for up to three days, which makes them an ideal make-ahead dessert that’ll surely impress your friends.

Once you’re ready to finish up your creme brulee, it’s time for the tricky part: the crunchy top. “Creme brulee” is French for “burnt cream,” so this part is essential. Sprinkle a thin layer of sugar evenly atop each custard. About a teaspoon should be enough, depending on how big your ramekins are.

Carefully pass the torch over each dish, working with one at a time. Hold the flame about one or two inches away from the surface and continually and slowly turn the dish as you go. This will evenly distribute the heat and prevent burning or uneven caramelization.

If you don’t have a torch, place your ramekins in your oven broiler, making sure your sugar is about two or three inches from the heat source. Turn on the broiler and cook for about five minutes. Watch to make sure you don’t overburn the sugar.

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