Creme Brûlée is one of those classic desserts. It’s rich and creamy and silky and, best of all, you make it in advance. In fact the day before is preferable. The crackly caramelized sugar topping takes only a few minutes right before serving and totally takes it to a top level dish! The downside is that the main ingredient is cream. High fat cream. I wanted to see if using a lower fat combination would give the same delicious results. And I was pleasantly surprised!
Don’t get me wrong. This is not a low fat dish. Not even close. But instead of using 35% cream I used a 50/50 combination of 10% cream and homogenized milk which is 3.5%. I have to admit, I was worried. That’s quite a difference. I added an extra egg yolk to help get that thick creamy consistency and it worked!
The key to making creme brûlée is to add the hot milk mixture very slowly to the egg yolk mixture so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs. This is called tempering. If you get a few lumps it’s not a big deal. You can strain the custard before adding it to the ramekins. Baking them at a low temperature in a water bath with a kitchen towel in the bottom prevents them from cooking too fast. Refrigerating the custard for at least 4 hours but best over night allows the custard to finish setting. Some say you can make this days ahead but I wouldn’t be able to resist that long.
For something this special you want to ensure you’re using the freshest and best quality ingredients. If possible, use a real vanilla bean. Not only is it the truest vanilla flavour, you get those little black dots that are real vanilla seeds. But no worries, using real vanilla extract is perfectly fine.
You could make 6 smaller ones but why would you want a smaller serving?
I used four larger ramekins and put a dish cloth in the pan before adding the boiling water. And be careful not to pour any water into the custards.
Preheat the oven temperature to 325. It’s easier to pour the water in after you’ve placed the pan on the rack in the oven. Close the oven and turn the temperature down to 300 degrees. This way, since you’ve lost some heat with the door open, the oven will be at the perfect temperature without having to preheat again. Which could cook the custards a little too quickly.
Remove them from the water bath as soon as you can and let them cool on a rack. Once they’re room temperature, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate until right before you’re ready to add the sugar topping.
There isn’t much sugar in the custard but the caramelized sugar topping balances the sweetness. I used a mixture of white and brown sugar and it melted and hardened perfectly. Just remember to keep the torch moving and don’t get so close to the sugar that you burn it. Be patient. You need to serve this soon after torching the top or it will go soft. You just need to wait about a minute for the sugar to harden.
If you don’t have a torch you can finish them under the broiler. Just make sure your custards are very cold and broil them on the highest rack. And watch them carefully.
This one finished under the broiler. A bit lighter but the sugar still hardened. The custard was a little softer because it warmed up slightly from the heat of the oven.
Or feel free to come by and borrow my kitchen torch! But I can’t be responsible if you have a kitchen fire. So be really careful.
If you prefer you can use 18% cream and 4 egg yolks. They will be slightly softer and richer.
Crack the caramelized sugar with the back of your spoon and dig in!
Here’s the recipe:
Creme Brulee Serves 4-6 Ingredients 1 C homogenized milk 1 C 10% cream 5 egg yolks 1/4 C sugar 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped or 1 tsp real vanilla 2 Tbsp white sugar 2 Tbsp brown sugar Method Preheat oven to 325 degrees and ensure rack is in the middle of the oven. Heat milk and cream over low-medium heat until almost simmering. Split vanilla bean and scrape the soft interior with the tip of a knife. Add to milk mixture while heating. Meanwhile separate 5 eggs. Combine egg yolks with sugar and wisk well. When milk is just starting to bubble around the edges gently pour a very small amount into the yolk mixture and wisk. Continue to add in small amounts, wisking continuously until well combined. Place a dish cloth in the bottom of a large baking dish. Arrange ramekins in the dish so they aren't touching each other. Boil a kettle of water. Carefully pour custard evenly into ramekins. You can strain the custard first if you prefer, however if you're using real vanilla bean, you may lose some of the seeds if your strainer is very fine. Place the pan on the middle rack in the oven and pour boiling water into the pan, being very careful not to get any into the custards. Close the door and decrease oven temperature to 300 degrees. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Smaller custards will take less time. They should jiggle slightly but not be liquidy. Remove from oven and carefully remove ramekins to a rack. Once they are room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or over night. Right before serving, combine white and brown sugar. Sprinkle about 1 Tbsp on each custard evenly. Torch the tops with a continuous movement until the sugar is melted and browning. Take care not to allow to burn. Or place under broiler on highest oven rack and watch carefully until tops are brown and bubbling. Let custards sit for about a minute to allow the sugar to harden before serving.