Creme Brulee and a New School Year

So there’s been a lot going on in the news lately what with the straw poll in Iowa, and Governor Perry entering the race for the Republican Nomination while Pawlenty drops out. The Texas Legislature approving massive slashes to the family planning budget (2/3s of the budget), and President Obama going on a three day bus tour in the midwest. I could talk about all that, but I’m just going to say two things:

1. Perry rhymes with Scary (thanks Sam) 
2. Let’s think of happier things, no? Like Creme Brulee and a new year!

Yep, I made creme brulee. First off, terrible idea. When you make something, you learn what goes into it. But it’s so….goooooood. Seriously. Each bite is just so luxurious you just want more. So while I lament actually knowing what’s in each bite I’m taking, I revel in the pleasure of the creaminess while Jacques the dog looks on with pleading puppy eyes. 

Don’t worry, I let him lick the bowl. 

Don’t worry, I clean the bowl well. 

Anyways, it’s not hard, trust me. You just have to be careful how you bake it. As with all custards, the concern with baking is that it will cook too fast on the top and you’ll come out with a scrambled egg mess. Refer to my lemon bar flop for an example. 

The way to do it with custards, cheesecakes, etc. Is to cook it at a lower temp, for a long time, in a water bath. Water retains heat very well thanks to its high  specific heat, and as a liquid it moves to fit its container (throw back to CHEM 105, ahhh the college education at work). 

Why is this good for custard? Well, cooking something in a water bath ensures that you get an even temperature on all parts of your dessert. And things come out beautifully. 

Also, really do spring for the vanilla bean for this recipe. My reasoning for this is three-fold:

1. It gives the custard a totally different flavor than regular vanilla extract would. 

2. Seeing those black vanilla bean seeds will make you feel fancy. Totes worth it when you’re eating it in your work out clothes on your couch. 

3. You can re-use the vanilla bean pod to make awesome vanilla sugar. Great in my fake-espresso, as it will be in yours too. 

Make it for yourself and eat it over the course of a week and a half (that’s how long it’ll stay really good…you can keep it for longer, but it won’t taste as good) or make it for a dinner party to make your guests think you’re a master chef.

PS — about school — I’m starting a new year on Monday. Yep, second year! People say it’s better than the first. This is me taking a break from mad lesson planning–writing this post. I’m excited, and scared, and little more excited, then scared again. I’m scarited. It’ll totes be fine 🙂 

Creme Brulee
modified from Alton Brown

6 egg yolks, room temperature
1.5 cups granulated sugar
2.5 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
2 quarts hot water

Preheat the oven to 300F.

In a medium saucepan, heat all your cream. Take your vanilla bean, slice it down the middle, and scrape the seeds out of it with your knife. Place the seeds and the vanilla bean shell in with your cream. Allow it to come to a boil, then turn off the heat and let it steep for 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, put in the six egg yolks with 0.5 cups of sugar. Whisk on medium-high till it turns light-yellow, like the color of unsalted butter.

When the cream is done steeping, remove the vanilla bean shell and reserve it for later. 

Turn your mixer back on to medium, and slowly pour the cream into the yolk mixture. Do it slowly, because the cream is still hot, and you do not want to cook the eggs. I actually transferred my cream into a pyrex liquid measuring cup, and pour from there. 

Then pour your mixture into little ramekins until they’re about half or 3/4 full (depending on how you want it). Put them in a baking dish, and put them in the oven. 

Once its in the oven, carefully pour the hot water around your ramekins into the baking dish, making sure not to spill any into the creme brulee mixture. Close the oven, and bake for 40 min. You’ll know they’re done when they’re firm, but a bit jiggly in the middle still. Allow them to cool for 2 hours before eating.

While it’s baking, in a small container, put the rest of the 1 cup of sugar, and the reserved vanilla bean shell. Mix it a little and cover it. 

Now comes the fun part….when you want to burn the sugar on top, take a tsp. of the vanilla sugar you made, put it on the custard, spread it around, and either stick it in your broiler on high for a minute or so, or if you have a handle held flamer, just flame it! 

Serve immediately with fresh berries on top, you know, for the healthy aspect. 

2 thoughts on “Creme Brulee and a New School Year

  1. I'm not sure about your shopping options- but I've found that vanilla beans are SO cheap if you buy them int he bulk section in our local co-op. At safeway its $13 for ONE BEAN!!!! At the co-op its ONE DOLLAR for ONE BEAN, which is probably way fresher as well.
    Just had to share because I was appalled at the price difference. And one dollar per bean is awesomely affordable and you could totally make your own extract for cheap too 🙂


  2. I KNOW! I bought one in bulk, its $4 here compared to $15…it's AMAZING the price difference. I'm going to post a vanilla, jasmine rice pudding soon that I'm using the other vanilla bean I got for, but I'm definitely getting more of those.


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