It is a particularly gratifying feeling to crack the caramel crust of a crème brûlée with the back of your teaspoon, like breaking your way to goodness. As a sensory dessert it takes the biscuit.
The French haven’t come around to inventing a word for it, but in my humble opinion they should.
Whenever I see one on a dessert menu I can hardly resist. I have come across good & bad, and every once in a while very good ones.
The key to a good crème caramel is mostly the ratio of custard to caramel crust. This boils down to personal taste but I prefer a not too deep ramekin. You don’t want the caramel to overpower the quantity of crème you have on each spoonful. But on the other hand you don’t want too much custard. It’s a fine balance to get right.
The crème can be flavoured to any sort, traditionally it is vanilla. The best I ever had was a pistachio flavoured one in La Quercia in Rome. I highly recommend going there if you ever find yourself so lucky. Mr. J and I ended up going there twice on our trip, just to eat the crème brûlée again, the rest of the food was welworth a second visit too…
I’ve made my crème brûlée with saffron to add an extra dimension to the sensory part. Saffron is one of my favourite spices and it’s lush rich scent pairs well with the delicacy of the crème.
Finally, please use a blowtorch. You can find little ones in any good cook shop or online and they are worth the investment. For me there is no alternative (forget putting it under the grill of your oven), if you want to achieve the caramelized crust.
Ingredients (makes 5-6 ramekins):
- 300ml double cream
- 200ml semi-skimmed milk
- 1 pinch of saffron or 1 vanilla pod
- 6 egg yolks
- 50gr. of sugar
- 2 tbsp of caster sugar
- 2 tbsp of raw cane sugar
- If possible let either the saffron or vanilla pod (cut lengthways and seeds scrapped out) infuse in the double cream a day before you make the recipe or at least a couple of hours.
- Heat the oven on 110°C and put a full kettle of water to boil.
- Prepare the ramekins by putting them in deep and large roasting dish.
- Mix the milk and double cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- In the meantime mix the egg yolks with the sugar in large bowl.
- Once the milk and cream has come to a boil, take out the vanilla pod or sift the mixture through a fine sieve to take out the saffron threads.
- Pour this mixture slowly into the eggs while whiskly gently. If you can, use a standmixer. Try to avoid creating too many bubbles.
- Pour the mixture into the ramekins. Set the whole dish into the oven and pour your hot kettle water in the roasting tin so it comes half way the ramekins.
- Bake for 40 minutes. The custard should be set at the edges but with a slight wobble in the middle.
- Remove them the water and let them cool for a bit. Then refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
- Mix the cane and caster sugar and sprinkle from high on the ramekins, creating an even layer of sugar. Use the blow torch to caramilize the top.
- Wait a few second for the caramel to harden and then they are ready!