Happy Holiday Season!! This is the perfect time to cook, bake and create your favorite goodies and indulge without guilt. In our family, one of our favorites is something called Classic Creme Brulée. It is a perfect show stopper to make for your holiday gathering. I had never made this myself, but my youngest son has and he wows us every time he makes it!
Classic Creme Brulée is a rich, creamy custard-like dessert with a layer of heated and hardened sugar on top. It is decadent, absolutely divine and a real show stopper!!
Classic Creme Brulee is an ultra decadent dessert of cream, sugar, eggs and real vanilla bean. It is cooked and strained to a silkiness like nothing else you have ever eaten. Sugar is sprinkled on top, then torched to form a hardened, browned sugar. You have to hit it with your spoon to crack it open where you can then partake of the creamiest dessert ever!
Being that my sons are grown and busy with their own lives, in their own homes, it is always a treat to have them come home for a visit. Recently, my youngest son had a few days off from work and came down to hang out with ol’ mom and dad. Prior to coming down, he inquired if I had ramekins, well of course I do!! I knew what that meant, his famous Classic Creme Brulée was in the works!!
I have made a ton of different, even very odd or complicated things, but I have never made Classic Creme Brulée. I am not sure why I hadn’t attempted it, but I was open to learning the secrets now. Kiel and I sometimes talk about opening our own bakery or food truck. He has pretty awesome baking skills, so it was no surprise to me that he had mastered Classic Creme Brulée.
Classic Creme Brulée is a delicacy of ultra-smooth and silky custard under a topping of crispy, hardened and browned sugar. You have to crack the sugar with your spoon to get to it!!
Kiel did let me know we needed a small, hand held torch and we absolutely, positively needed to have vanilla bean, no extract would do for this dessert. If we were going to take the time to do everything else in the classic, French way, we needed to have a quality product and vanilla beans were not to be skimped on.
There are quite a few steps, but as Kiel was able to show me, they aren’t difficult, certainly nothing I hadn’t done in some form or fashion with other things I had made. The big deal though is to take your time, do it right the first time (like with those vanilla beans) and you can easily produce a dessert that amazes your company the second you put it down in front of them.
I have had Classic Creme Brulée many times in finer dining restaurants, but I have to say Kiel’s Classic Creme Brulée is far superior to anything I have ever had before. This is not a proud mom talking here (though I am a proud mom), this is a connoisseur of good food. This my friends is more than good, it is superb!!
As I said, this isn’t difficult, just takes a little prep and proper timing. First you will pour your heavy cream into a medium large sauce pan. To this you will add the sugar and stir to incorporate. Take your vanilla bean (tip: to know you have a nice, plump vanilla bean, you should be able to bend your vanilla bean enough to tie it in a knot. If it snaps in two or breaks, it is too dry).
Back to the vanilla bean. Lay your bean flat on the counter and with the tip of your knife, slice through the length of your bean. It should be split in two. You will then scrape out the vanilla bean seeds with your knife by scraping it along the length of the cut vanilla bean pod. The seeds almost look like caviar close up. Then add the vanilla bean seeds to the cream AND toss the scraped vanilla bean pod into the cream too for more flavor. Leave it in until you are ready to pour the cream through the strainer. Make sure you scrape both sides of the split vanilla bean and then stir that into the milk mixture. Turn heat to medium and stir to dissolve the sugar and infuse the vanilla flavor, (the seeds will speckle your cream mixture with little black dots). You know a Classic Creme Brulee by the vanilla seeds in the custard mixture.
You will cook the cream mixture for about 8-10 minutes, stirring to make sure the sugar is dissolved. After about 8 minutes you will then turn up the heat to high, (yes high) you want to get to a rolling boil, do not stir it. You will want to stir it, don’t do it! Let it come to a boil on high until the milk bubbles start to come up to the very top of the sauce pan, and then immediately remove it from the heat. Then immediately pour the cream into the bowl that contains your raw, mixed eggs (5 yolks and 2 whole eggs, make sure you mix your eggs with a fork before you pour in the hot cream) and whisk like a crazy person to incorporate the hot cream into the eggs.
Whisk and keep whisking and allow the hot cream to cook the egg yolks……keep whisking. As the yolks cook, they will thicken the custard and cool the cream down at the same time. What you are left with is something called Creme Anglaise (silky custard).
Then pour this hot custard mixture through a fine strainer into a bowl or pitcher measure (you will be pouring this into the ramekins in a minute). You are straining out any small pieces of egg. Just let it strain via gravity, do not push any chunks through.
Now, place your 4-6 ramekins ( the sizes vary) into a 9×13 or 11×15 baking dish, place a clean dish cloth into the bottom of the pan. This helps keep the ramekins from sliding around and also helps insulate the ramekin. Now pour the custard into the ramekins, up to the 2/3 full mark and skim off any extra foam from the top of the custards. Now pour boiling hot water into the baking dish (careful not to get any in the ramekins). The boiling hot water should come at least half way up the ramekins.
Place this into the oven at 250 degrees for 30 minutes At 30 minutes, give them a little shake, if too liquid-y, keep them in for another 15 minutes then test them again. When you jiggle the pan, you want the center to wobble just a little bit and you know they are done. Take them out of water, they will set as you let them cool at room temperature. Once cooled, place in fridge until you are ready to eat them.
The final step is done just prior to serving. You will sprinkle granulated white sugar all over the top of the cooled Classic Creme Brulée. This should be about a teaspoon. Too thin of a layer of sugar and you burn the custard with the torch and too thick you have to burn the sugar to harden it.
Fire up the blow torch and hold the flame still and as soon as you see the caramel color, start moving the flame, so that you brown the entire top of the sugar. Let them cool for 5 minutes. This allows the sugar to get hard as it cools and then it is ready to serve. You should have to crack the sugar with your spoon to get into the creamy center.
Classic Creme Brulée
- 4-6 ramekins (depending on size)
- Hand held blow torch
- fine mesh, metal strainer
- 9×13 or 11×15 glass, baking dish
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 5 large egg yolks
- 2 large whole, eggs
- 1 large plump, soft and pliant vanilla bean
- 4-6 tsp granulated sugar (to go on top after it is cooked)
- 1 kettle of boiling water
- ****Detailed, step by step instructions are in the blog post, please refer to this if necessary****
- Place the egg yolks and whole eggs into a large bowl and scramble them. Set aside, the cream is going to be poured into these shortly.
- Pour your heavy cream into a sauce pan, then add 1/2 cup sugar to heavy cream and stir. Turn flame to medium.
- Cut the vanilla bean down the center, lengthwise with the tip of your knife. Scrape out the vanilla beans seeds with the edge of your knife and place the vanilla bean seeds into the cream and stir to incorporate.
- Cook the cream mixture 8-10 minutes on medium, stirring to infuse the vanilla bean and melt the sugar. Then crank the heat to high and DO NOT TOUCH IT. Let it get to a boil and let the bubbles come up to almost the top of the sauce pan and then immediately remove it from the heat.
- Pour the hot cream into the bowl of eggs and whisk, whisk, whisk like a crazy person. Then whisk some more. You will be whisking about 5 minutes. During this whisking process, you are cooking the eggs and thickening the cream with the eggs at the same time.
- Pour this mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl or pitcher, this is to catch any bits of egg. Don't push any liquid through, let it flow through via gravity and leave the chunks in the strainer.
- Place a clean dish towel in a 9×13 or 11×15 glass baking dish, place empty ramekins on the towel. Pour the hot custard mixture into the ramekins until them are 2/3 full. Then pour boiling water into the baking dish until the water level is 1/2 way up the sides of the ramekins.
- Place this in preheated oven set at 250 degrees for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes of cooking, jiggle the dish, if it is too liquid still, leave in for another 15 minutes and then recheck. You want to jiggle the dish and only the center is a little wobbly. It will set more as it cools.
- Remove from oven, take ramekins out of water and leave on counter to cool to room temp. Refrigerate until you are ready to use them.
- Just prior to serving, sprinkle approximately one rounded teaspoon of sugar all over the top of the custard. Light the blow torch and brown until the top is caramel colored, some areas may be a little darker and that is okay. Let cool 5 minutes, so sugar has time to cool and harden.
- When eating, you will need to crack the sugar with your spoon to gain access to the silky, creamy center. That's it! Enjoy friends!!
I know this seems like a lot of steps, it really isn’t. It just requires detailed explanation the first time. I made this post extra long so that I was sure to get in all the steps and you had your questions answered as we went along. I hope you make this Classic Creme Brulée for your holiday company and enjoy it as much as we did. Thanks Kiel!!
If you love this lovely, decadent dessert, you will probably equally love my other holiday favorite, Croissant Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce. It too will wow any audience!!