#DessertAlert: Crème Brûlée

It's finally the season filled with trips home, copious amounts of food and gifts you never asked for! 

Okay, so maybe the season if actually filled with giving, joyfulness and cheer--in addition to the other stuff I mentioned. Regardless, it's time to introduce to you an easy, single-serve dessert that is rewarding to make either for a ton of people, or just for one: Crème Brûlée.

Crème Brûlée is a custard dessert that screams Christmas, primarily because it is vanilla flavored. If you've never had it before and you love all things dessert (as do I), the best way to describe it is if delicious vanilla ice cream melted and became a pudding. Sound fantastic, right? Additionally, it only contains four very common ingredients that you probably buy for all your holiday needs anyway.

However, some people are intimidated by Crème Brûlée because of the technique it takes to make it. For instance, no average home cook has the handheld propane gas torch required to traditionally caramelize the top of the custard, but for similar brûlée results, not many people know you can broil it in the oven. My recipe is simple enough that you won't have to purchase any extra tools for the kitchen for it to come out successfully (except the ramekins; you can find mine for $1.99 each at Target).

Getting to It

Ingredients

(yields 4 servings)

5 egg yolks

2 cups heavy cream

3/4 cup of sugar 

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Additional:

1-2 tsp per ramekin for the brûlée

Hot water


1. Heat oven to 325 degrees.

2. In a sauce pan, add the heavy cream and vanilla. Heat on medium heat until simmering.

3. While cream is heating, add egg yolks and sugar to a bowl. Whisk until fully incorporated.

4. Once cream is simmering, turn off the heat. Add two tablespoons of cream into sugar/egg mixture and whisk thoroughly to temper the eggs. Be sure to whisk fast so the eggs do not scramble. Repeat this process at least three times or until eggs are tempered and a custard begins to form.

5. Add the rest of the cream to the bowl and whisk until the custard is finished.

6. Take your ramekins and place them in a baking pan that's at least as deep as the ramekins are. Pour custard into the ramekins leaving about a quarter-inch space from the top (usually there is a line under the rim as a guideline).

7. Add hot water to the baking pan you placed the ramekins in. Fill the water half way up the sides of the ramekins.

8. Bake at 325 degrees for at 40-50 minutes. Cooking time will vary based on your oven; make sure the edges of the custard have formed but the middle should still be quite jiggly.

9. After baking, let the custards cool in the fridge for at least three hours until they are firm.

10. Take out the ramekins from the refrigerator. Add 1-2 tsp of sugar on top of each individual custard into an even layer. (TIP: Caramelizing works best with a little moisture; before adding the sugar on top, brush a little bit of milk or creme so it can caramelize easier.)

11. Put your oven on broil to the high temp. Place your ramekins in the oven to caramelize the sugar.

12. Take out the ramekins when the sugar gets dark brown and bubbly. Allow to cool if ramekins are hot, then serve.

The first variation of Crème Brûlée I ever made and tasted was actually a chocolate Crème Brûlée, which can be achieved by just adding a bit more cream to the simmering sauce pan and either semisweet chocolate or cocoa powder. Another great thing to do is use fresh vanilla bean, although unless you already have it, it can get a bit pricey. My suggestion during the chaos of the busy holidays is to stick to my basic recipe and add some fresh berries once it's torched before you sit down to enjoy.