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Basic Crème Brûlée

Basic Crème Brûlée

For a twist on the basic crème brûlée, experiment with one of these variations, such as peppermint or double raspberry.

Southern Living DECEMBER 1995

  • Yield: Makes 5 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • Garnishes: fresh raspberries, fresh mint sprig

Preparation

Combine first 4 ingredients, stirring with a wire whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture is smooth. Pour mixture evenly into 5 (5- x 1-inch) round individual baking dishes; place dishes in a large roasting pan or a 15- x 10- x 1-inch jellyroll pan. Prepare 1/2-inch water bath (see Brûlée Basics below).

Bake at 275° for 45 to 50 minutes or until almost set. Cool custards in water in pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan; cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Sprinkle about 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar evenly over each custard; place custards in jellyroll pan.

Broil 5 inches from heat (with electric oven door partially opened) until brown sugar melts. Let stand 5 minutes to allow sugar to harden.

Note: All baking times are for 5- x 1-inch round individual baking dishes. As a general rule, to use 4-, 6-, or 8-ounce custard cups, bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. When the crème brûlée is done, the center will still be slightly liquid and a knife will not come out clean. The yield will vary with different size dishes: For 4-ounce cups you'll get 10 servings, for 6-ounce cups you'll get 7 servings, and for 8-ounce cups you'll get 4 servings.

Chocolate Crème Brûlée: Combine 4 (1-ounce) squares semisweet chocolate and 1/2 cup whipping cream from basic recipe in a small heavy saucepan; cook over low heat, stirring constantly until chocolate melts. Add remaining 1 1/2 cups whipping cream; reduce vanilla to 1 teaspoon. Proceed as directed in basic recipe, baking for 55 minutes. To make a Chocolate-Raspberry version, place 8 to 10 fresh raspberries in each baking dish, add chocolate custard, and increase baking time to 1 hour and 5 minutes.

Berry Crème Brûlée: Place 8 to 10 fresh blackberries or raspberries in each baking dish; pour custard mixture over berries. Proceed as directed in basic recipe, baking for 45 minutes.

Coffee Crème Brûlée: Combine 1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee granules and 1/4 cup whipping cream from basic recipe; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes or until coffee dissolves. Add remaining 1 3/4 cups whipping cream; reduce vanilla to 1 teaspoon. Proceed as directed in basic recipe, baking for 45 to 50 minutes.

Double Raspberry Crème Brûlée: Reduce vanilla to 1 teaspoon; add 1 additional egg yolk and 1 1/2 tablespoons raspberry liqueur to custard mixture. Place 8 to 10 fresh raspberries in each baking dish; pour custard mixture over berries. Proceed as directed in basic recipe, baking for 55 minutes.

Almond Crème Brûlée: Reduce vanilla to 1 teaspoon; add 1 additional egg yolk, 2 tablespoons almond liqueur, and 1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds to custard mixture. Proceed as directed in basic recipe, baking for 1 hour.

Orange Crème Brûlée: Reduce vanilla to 1 teaspoon; add 1 additional egg yolk, 2 tablespoons grated orange rind, and 2 tablespoons orange liqueur to custard mixture. Proceed as directed in basic recipe, baking for 1 hour.

Peppermint Crème Brûlée: Reduce vanilla to 1 teaspoon; add 1 additional egg yolk and 3 tablespoons peppermint schnapps. Proceed as directed in basic recipe, baking for 50 minutes. Substitute 5 hard peppermint candies, crushed, for brown sugar; broil as directed

White Chocolate-Macadamia Nut Crème Brûlée: Combine 4 ounces white chocolate and 1/2 cup whipping cream from basic recipe in a small heavy saucepan; cook over low heat, stirring constantly until chocolate melts. Add remaining 1 1/2 cups whipping cream; reduce vanilla to 1 teaspoon. Proceed as directed in basic recipe. Place 1 tablespoon chopped macadamia nuts, toasted, in each baking dish, and pour custard over nuts. Bake as directed for 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Ginger Crème Brûlée: Reduce vanilla to 1 teaspoon; add 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger to custard mixture. Proceed as directed in basic recipe, baking for 1 hour and 5 minutes.

Roasted Garlic Crème Brûlée: Cut off the flat end of 2 garlic heads, and spread apart whole cloves, leaving tight outer covering intact. Trim pointed end so head will sit flat. Place garlic heads, trimmed ends down, on a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons olive oil; wrap in aluminum foil. Bake at 350° for 1 hour; cool. Squeeze out pulp from each garlic clove.

Reduce sugar to 1 tablespoon, omit vanilla, and add 1 teaspoon salt and garlic pulp to custard mixture. Place mixture in container of electric blender, and process until smooth. Proceed as directed in basic recipe, baking for 40 minutes.

Onion Crème Brûlée: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over low heat; add 1 cup coarsely chopped onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes or until caramelized. Reduce sugar to 1 tablespoon, omit vanilla, and add 1 teaspoon salt and caramelized onion to custard mixture. Place mixture in container of electric blender, and process until smooth. Proceed as directed in basic recipe, baking for 50 minutes.

Roquefort-and-Black Pepper Crème Brûlée: Reduce sugar to 1 tablespoon, omit vanilla, and add 1/4 cup Roquefort cheese and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper to custard mixture. Place mixture in container of electric blender, and process until smooth. Proceed as directed in basic recipe, baking for 45 minutes.

Brûlée Basics:

Don't panic when you see the term water bath. A water bath is simply a roasting pan or jellyroll pan filled with water. The water creates a cushion from the heat of the oven, allowing the custards to bake slowly without curdling.

Don't burn yourself. Before you take the water bath out of the oven, remove some of the water with a basting bulb or a long-handled ladle.

When you broil the brown sugar, get the crème brûlées as close to the heating element as possible. To do this, place an inverted roasting pan on the top shelf of the oven; then place the crème brûlées on a baking sheet on top of the roasting pan.

An adventurous alternative to the broiler is a welding torch. Your dinner guests will think you have gone mad, but the torch gives the ultimate glassy crust. Torching is the professional chef's method of choice.

Crème brûlée is an even more extraordinary dessert if the custard is cold and firm when you crack into the warm caramelized sugar topping. Here's the secret: Place the custards in a roasting pan filled with ice, and then broil them. The ice keeps the custards cold while the sugar melts.

You can bake the crème brûlées ahead of time, but wait until just a few minutes before serving to caramelize the sugar. The caramelized sugar will begin to liquefy if the custards sit for more than an hour.

We found that Dixie Crystals brand brown sugar works best for crème brûlées. It caramelizes evenly to a perfect golden brown.

Don't waste your money on salamanders sold in gourmet catalogs and used for caramelizing the top of crème brûlées. They work like branding irons to melt the brown sugar. When we tried one, we ended up with burnt--not caramelized--sugar.

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Basic Crème Brûlée recipe

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