Monday, May 9, 2011

Crème Brulée - You can do it!


Note:  I've been nominated for Babble's 100 Top Food Blogs!  I have ONE more votes to get into the top 100.  If you like what I've done here, would you follow the side link to Babble and vote for me?  I am on page #3 "Snippets of Thyme"

Isn't everyone always intimidated by the thought of making crème brulée at home?  When I see this on a restaurant menu, there is no doubt what my dessert order will be.  The first tap tap of the spoon on that sugary coating makes me feel like a little girl  anticipating the first peek inside a wrapped gift.  

Or, better yet, perhaps its like the final wallop that breaks open the pinata and all the treats reveal themselves;  the sprinkling to the ground of such goodness bringing endless delight.  

My, my, my but my mind does wander... see what the dessert does to me?

Cream, vanilla seeds and pod, releasing their heady aroma in my kitchen
Let me begin by unraveling this dreamy journey and perhaps some of you out there will delight yourselves and some lucky guests with this creamy, luscious, sensational dessert.

Now, on to the addition of the beloved vanilla bean.  Remember my article about Canino's Market here in Houston? Well, I am still basking in my vanilla bean bonanza find. Buckets I tell you...of vanilla beans.  It was a beautiful sight that made my heart go pitter-patter.   

My husband need not worry about my having a love affair with another man.  However, I certainly have developed an affair with this most exotic flower stamen - the vanilla bean!

This dessert is amazingly simple and elegant.  Undoubtedly it is high in calories but for special occasions, it can be...just that...special!  One wonderful tidbit about making creme brulee is that it can be made ahead.  The custard filling can easily be cooked in the oven, each in their own ramekin and then refrigerated  several days ahead of time.

Just before serving, sprinkle each pot de creme with sugar, torch the tops (right there in front of your guests!!), garnish (or keep it simple) and serve.  At first, I was going try these out under the broiler.  After googling this, though, it didn't seem like that always works well.

So, I sent Patrick off to Lowe's.  If you know my husband (mechanical engineer), you must imagine how he trotted off in full anticipation of a gadget purchase.  He came back giddily carrying our new..."torch".

I knew there was no hope at all that I would be giving the crème brulées their crowning moment of glory. He was completely taking over from here on out.   "Take a picture of the torch flame" he suggested with that adorable twinkle in his eyes.  Here it is... "zee flame"...

Have you ever smelled burnt sugar? 

I tell you...

If the smell could be bottled and sold!  It doesn't take much (burnt sugar) to move my senses.  No wonder I have tearful moments when I wander through farmer's markets and am overwhelmed by the beauty of it all.   
Now I have to go off and find out who were the first people to burn sugar over the top.  Is there a pay scale for  professional "googlers" like me?  Remember, we learned that vanilla seeds are the insides of the stamen of a flower and fluffy bread might have had a start with "beer water"?   I'm going to take a wild guess that burning sugar came from "zee french".  Love those french...

The "torch" used for burning the tops of the brulées can be easily purchased at any hardware store.  We paid $13. (Another note from Patrick:  the torch can be the plumbing section). I know, not very classy info. to include alongside this decadent dessert.

I must confess.  There was no elegant dinner party at our house where these crème brulées were served.  Like everyone else I have chatted with, we are all too afraid to attempt these little pots of luxury... in front of other people.  

Yes, we just sat around our kitchen table, the four of us, in complete rapture, in complete bliss, and savored every bite.  The recipe makes 6 brulées.  Do you follow?  That means there were 2...leftover.

One got tucked into Patrick's (a.k.a. torch man's) lunch the following day.  He told me he whipped his ramekin out during lunch and made a big "to-do" about "just having a simple little leftover" from home.

What happened to the second leftover, you might be musing?  As the writer of this blog...some snippets of info. just won't be revealed...even over thyme... (insert low chortle here...)

Crème Brulée:
(serves 6)

  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1 cup vanilla sugar, divided
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2 quarts hot water


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. (Snippet's Note:  lean over the pan and breath deeply)
Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. 
Remove the vanilla bean and reserve for another use.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. 
Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. 
Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins. 
Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. 
Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. (Mine needed closer to 45 minutes)  Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Remove the creme brulee from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. 
Divide the remaining 1/2 cup vanilla sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. 
Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.


  1. I have to admit that I made my first creme brûlée just so I would have an excuse to buy the torch...

  2. I have never even considered making creme brulee. But you are right, it's pretty simple. It's just a matter of owning a torch and finding vanilla beans :) Your creme brulees look fabulous!

  3. I'm with Julia - have never even considered attempting these but you certainly make it seem like a possibility. The vanilla beans I can find - have to decide if I want to invest in a torch!! They look simply divine!!

  4. We can do it - and indeed we MUST!! I am lost in admiration of your stunning photography too. Lovely post.

  5. Love creme brulee but only eat them at restaurants or cafe. I do not have a torch so any other ways to burn the sugar on top? Thanks dear!

  6. Those look so delicious. I can almost taste them.

  7. I adore creme brulee. I could every one of these quite happily!

  8. What a beautiful post - YUM, the pictures look amazing. It's funny because I have been thinking about creme brulee a lot today!! I bought back some lavendar from England and thought maybe I could use that! Yours looks really wonderful, I think you have given me the courage to give it a go.

  9. Love this post! How beautiful your pictures are. I am now determined to make this delicious looking French dessert.

  10. The pictures are so lovely and divine! We love this simple dessert too. Since I don't have a torch to get the burnt top, I serve this dish with dark caramel sauce.

  11. These pictures are so gorgeous!

  12. Beautiful! I've been wanting to have a torch for a long time and this just tells me I should have it really soon! Your crème brûlée is perfect and very tempting.

    BTW, I voted for your blog and wish you all the best! :)

  13. You've got my vote! :-) And can you give Patrick a hug for me? I just love his part in this particular entry!!!

  14. Popping back to say that I have given you a Kreativ Blogger Award over on mine. Cheers!

  15. I LOVE creme brulee. I don't have a torch though, and have been experimenting with making it under the broiler. But it's not quite the same. Might be worth investing.

  16. Oh yum! If only I could reach through my screen and take a spoonful! Mm mmm!!

    New to your blog; happy I found you!

    Mary xo
    Delightful Bitefuls

  17. Oh - I know I could get The Dude to the nearest hardware store pretty quickly if it meant I would allow another "tool" into the garage... (Especially if it was a tool that came with the promise of dessert).
    I hear you on the vanilla beans - although if I saw bins full, I would probably start rolling around in them. Hmmm, that might not go so well.

  18. I went over there immediately and voted for you, even before I read your post!

    Can I come over? Please?
    I just LOVE watching people do things...especially cook things. It is the ultimate comfort for me...I don't know why. I can just imagine myself sitting in your kitchen, chatting with you while you whip up some dreamy delectably scrumptious dish.
    Visiting your blog is a close second to being there in person. I'm so glad you are out there. :)
    And your tiny *in the plumbing section* had me in stitches. You are such a delight.

    Congratulations on getting a 50 mm! Isn't it the most wonderful lens ever? Did you get a 1.2, 1.4 or 1.8? In response to your question (you really need to change your blog settings so that I can respond to your comments by email!!!) I don't usually use a tripod with my 50....but if I am using a macro lens, then the tripod is a must. The 50 lets in a lot of light, so I only use a tripod if I have to. I hate using them, so big and klunky and awkward, you know?

    Is there anything more satisfying than the crackle of a spoon against burnt sugar? Oh bliss. Really...can I come over?

  19. They look so perfect!! I must say I haven't attempted to make this at home because I don't have a blow torch! I know I could use a heated spoon to create the same effect, but haven't given it a go.

  20. i got a torch for my birthday 6 months ago and STILL haven't made creme brulee. what is wrong with me! i need to make this recipe ASAP! thanks for the recipe. your pictures are lovely! :)

  21. ps. you are now #97 on page 2!
    you're welcome (;

  22. Voting - check! You certainly have one of the most beautiful food blogs out there...the photos are stunning, the recipes are doable, and you are a delightful writer...what more could one ask for?!
    This weekend I made a strawberry cake for MD (I hope yours was amazing!) and when it was time to add the vanilla...there wasn't any! I'd forgotten that I was out. I had some vanilla beans though and some vanilla sugar (from Germany), used both...and the cake came out even better than usual...that's how I'm going to make it from now on!
    I've never made cream brulee but once again, you've made me believe I can make something so very intimidating...your the best! Love the rasberry & pistachio additions!
    xo J~

  23. I had to laugh at the husband buying the torch, sounds just like mine. We already had the torch since we use it for thawing pipes up here in the cold north. Did you know though, that they make special torches for creme brulle? They are cute little one handed things that won't set your table on fire when using. You can usually get them in gift sets with ramekins around Christmas time. I prefer using the broiler though. You put the ramekins on a cookie sheet, set the shelf in the oven in a higher spot(leaving about 2 to 4 inches of clearance) I think it gives it a much more even coverage of the sugar and browns it so nicely. I found you on facebook, so I'm wondering why facebook isn't one of the options for profile?


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