Crème brûlée, the creamy, soft and delicious French dessert has been pleasing palates for more than 300 years.
It apparently originated at the table of the Philippe d’Orleans, brother of Louis XIV. His chef, Francois Massialot, when visiting Perpignan in the south of France tried a sweet dish made with Catalan cream and he made it when he got back to Paris. However, the hot dish he made got cold by the time his boss was ready to eat it so Massialot heated the top with an iron which caramelised the sugar topping and Crème brûlée was born. The chef wrote the recipe in a book dated 1691, a best seller called the “Royal and Bourgeois Cook”.
Classic Crème Brûlée Recipe
400ml double cream/heavy cream
100ml full-fat milk
1 vanilla pod
5 large egg yolks
50g golden caster sugar,
6 teaspoons of golden caster sugar for topping
1. Preheat oven to fan 160C/conventional 180C/gas 4.
2. Place four ramekin dishes (175ml) in a roasting or cake tin at least 7.5cm deep. It needs to be able to allow a baking tray to sit well above the ramekin dishes when laid across the top of the tin.
3. Pour the cream and milk into a medium pan. Place the vanilla pod on a board and slice lengthways through the middle with a sharp knife and split it in two. Use the tip of the knife to scrape out all the tiny seeds into the cream mixture. Drop the vanilla pod in as well, and set aside.
4. Put the egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk until it goes a pale colour and feels fluffy. Put the pan with the cream on a medium heat and bring almost to the boil. As soon as you see bubbles appear round the edge, take the pan off the heat.
5. Pour the hot cream into the beaten egg yolks, stirring with a wire whisk all the time, scrape the seeds from the pan. Pour the hot mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl, including as many vanilla seeds as you can. Discard the pale foam on top of the liquid. Stir the mixture in the bowl.
6. Pour in enough hot water (from the tap is fine) into the tin so that it reaches about 1.5cm up the sides of the ramekins. Pour the hot cream into the ramekins to the top then put the tin in the oven with a baking sheet over the top. It should completely cover them but sit well over the top and leave a small gap at one side to allow air to circulate.
7. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the mixture is softly set. They should wobble a bit when you move the tin – don’t let them set too firm.
8. Lift the ramekins out of the tin and set them on a wire rack to cool for a couple of minutes, then put in the fridge to cool completely (you can leave them overnight).
9. When you’re ready to serve, wipe round the top edge of the dishes, sprinkle 1½ teaspoons of caster sugar over each ramekin.
10. Spray with a little water using a fine spray to just dampen the sugar. Then, comes the fun bit – use a blow torch to caramelise it. Hold the flame just above the sugar and keep moving it round and round until beautifully brown and caramelised. If you don’t have a blow torch, pop it under a grill (broiler) for a couple of minutes. I’ve even heard of someone using a grill lighter to make it work…
Serve when the brûlée topping is firm.