I put my diet behind me for a day and invited some friends for a meal. I made my favorite chili and cornbread combination. I decided to make crème brulee for dessert. You gotta have dessert with company. Even if you are mostly on a diet. ESPECIALLY if you are mostly on a diet!
I use Emeril's recipe that I printed out years ago. It is pretty easy, but it has to cool and then chill, so start early in the day and don't wait until the last minute.
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 vanilla bean
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 6 Tablespoons
Heat the oven to 350°.
Vanilla beans are really pricey, but they add a richer flavor than just using vanilla extract. They also leave teeny black spots in whatever you are cooking so people KNOW you splurged on the good stuff. Use a paring knife to slice through the top of one half of a vanilla bean and then scrape down the bean.
Heat the heavy cream, milk, and the vanilla bean and the seeds you scraped off over medium heat. Watch to make sure it doesn't boil. You just want to heat it up.
While the cream is heating separate the eggs and place them in a heat proof mixing bowl. Add the 1/2 cup of sugar and whisk until the mixture is a pale yellow and all the sugar is dissolved.
Then you have to temper the egg mixture so the eggs don't curdle and turn into scrambled eggs when you add the hot cream. To do this you add a small amount, about 1/2 cup, of the hot cream mixture to the eggs while simultaneously whisking vigorously. Then add a bit more while still whisking. At this point you can drizzle in the cream from the pan to the egg bowl while whisking, until everything is in one bowl. Make sure to scrape out all the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl.
Place a strainer over a heatproof container with a lip for pouring. Pour the cream and eggs through the strainer. Then pour the mixture into ramekins. Once again scraping out the vanilla beans into the ramekins so everyone will know of your splurge on the vanilla bean.
The ramekins go into a roasting pan or baking dish and then pour very hot water halfway up the sides of the ramekin. Don't get any water in the ramekins. I do this next to the oven so that I don't have to carry boiling water across the kitchen.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes, turning halfway through to cook evenly. To test for doneness, jiggle the pan a bit to see if the custard is set. It will jiggle a bit, but not much. Remove and let cool at room temperature. Then remove the custard from the pan and cool on the counter. When you can easily handle them, chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours to completely cool.
You still have to melt the sugar on top, so spread about 1 Tablespoon of sugar on top and use a cooking torch to melt the sugar. I bought a fancy new torch and it did not work worth a darn. Don't waste your money on a Bonjour torch! About $30 dollars on Amazon, down the drain.
We ended up using the torch Lee uses to sweat pipes when fixing the plumbing. As a last resort, my plan was to heat the broiler and melt the sugar that way. You have to watch closely and remove the pan as soon as the sugar melts. Then I would have had to re-chill the custard some, as in the past this method has resulted in the custard becoming liquid.
When done properly you will end up with a silky, delicate custard with a crunchy sugar topping. It turned out great, even with the torch issue. Maybe I need to get my own plumber's torch for the kitchen!