If I had the choice of choosing my final meal before going to that big kitchen in the sky (god I hope it’s bigger than a Brooklyn kitchen or God has one twisted sense of humor) I think it would end with Creme Brulee. Easily my favorite dessert, yet one that I don’t have too often. I’ve had my overwhelming share of bad creme brulees–burned, too dense, strange texture. One time the chef didn’t even bother to brulee it! To me it looked (and tasted) like a dense custard with way too much granulated sugar, but to them it was creme brulee. I won’t point any fingers at the guilty party, but let’s just say it wasn’t exactly a diner.
So my Creme Brulee decision is usually based on how good the dinner is. A bad dinner means hell no! A decent dinner? Well, that gets compounded with the restaurant’s reputation (friends and press) and what kind of mood I’m in. Someplace like Eleven Madison Park? I would sure hope they know how to make a creme brulee! So long answer short, it’s pretty rare for me to order Creme Brulee unless I REALLY have faith in the restaurant. Most recently I had a decadent Earl Grey Creme Brulee (that’s right, the tea) at the Red Clover Inn while vacationing in Vermont last fall. Amazing. But to be honest, I’d rather have a boring slice of cheesecake (NY style–ricotta cheesecake is almost a tie for my creme brulee love) or even a burned brownie a la mode than a failed brulee.
It got me thinking. Considering how much I bash restaurants’ inferior creme brulee, I should probably try making the thing myself to understand the level of skill needed. It was the perfect dessert to accompany our New Year’s Day dinner. (Bonus–one New Year’s Foodie Resolution done!). So it turns out making creme brulee is…drum roll please…EASY. Yup, that’s right. It’s probably one of the easiest desserts I’ve ever made. I’ll admit handling the blowtorch takes a bit of finesse to brulee the sugar evenly and maybe it would be different if I had to make 400 vs. 4. But honestly, I just don’t understand what’s so hard.
I even went crazy and spiced up the recipe a bit! My wonderful mother in law gave me a gift box from King Arthur Flour (I know, a gift box, from a flour company…? Who knew?). One of the items was lemon juice powder. (I can attest to it’s lemonness–a little dust on your tongue and full pucker face!) So I figure why not throw some of that in? And we have lemon creme brulee. You could also toss in a bit of extract (orange or amaretto or coconut maybe?) or if you’re looking to replicate that Earl Grey Creme Brulee I was talking about, just steep a tea bag in the cream before mixing it all together. So many tasty options! My favorite part about Creme Brulee is that it comes in individual portions, so you never need to share with anyone. Ever.
Lemon Creme Brulee (Adapted from Elegantly Easy Creme Brulee) Makes 4
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/4 c granulated sugar (plus extra for the tops)
- 1 c heavy cream
- 1 healthy slug of vanilla
- 2 tbsp lemon juice powder
Preheat oven to 300°F. Prepare your water bath for baking. Line the bottom of a small casserole dish with a paper towel, cutting paper towel to size if needed (this helps the ramekins from sliding around). I used a 9×9 glass cake pan. Boil enough water to fill the casserole dish halfway and set aside (I just heated my tea kettle to be sure I had enough).
In a bowl whisk egg yolks and sugar until sugar is dissolved and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Add cream, vanilla and lemon juice powder until well blended. Strain mixture into a clean bowl, skimming off any bubbles or foam.
Divide mixture into 4 ramekins. Place in casserole dish and fill with water so the ramekins are half submerged. Bake until edges are set but still loose in the middle, about 40-50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in water bath. Transfer to refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
Take creme brulees out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before ready to serve. Sprinkle with a thin layer of granulated sugar, about 1 teaspoon each. Melt sugar with a mini blowtorch (or stick in the broiler for a few minutes) and serve.
- Pumpkin Creme Brulee (alidoesit.wordpress.com)
- Foodie Resolutions and Bucket List (bklynlocavore.com)
- Romantic Dinner Party for Two (bklynlocavore.com)
- Amarula and Chocolate Crème Brûlée (underthebluegumtree.com)
- Pumpkin Spice Creme Brûlée (abeautifulmess.com)
- Cranberry Week – Honey Cranberry Creme Brulee (romancingthebee.com)