Sunday, February 9, 2014

Creme Brulee for your Sweetie

{I'm reposting this story, recipe and crappy photography from my first year of blogging...waaaaay back in 2011.   The story still makes me simultaneously grin and wince; the recipe still makes me want to run to the kitchen and start fixin' it.  Enjoy!}


On February 14, 2006, when I was 5 months pregnant with our first child, my husband surprised me by taking me to a very nice restaurant.  Though I was thrilled to be going somewhere so tasty and fancy, I was a little worried about what I was going to wear.

(Nothing "nice" fit anymore, and I didn't want to run out and buy a gussied-up maternity outfit.)

After freaking out for approximately 10 minutes, I s-q-u-e-e-z-e-d myself into a non-maternity black dress.

But my legs were so pasty white, the mere thought of them being seen in public sent me running to my hosiery drawer. 

I pulled out a black pair of pantyhose.

But do you think they were going to comfortably fit over my pregnant belly?

Not a chance.

What's a girl to do?


That's right.  Out came the scissors, snip-snip-snip, and voila!  I made myself a homemade pair of thigh-high pantyhose.

They fit perfectly!

Feeling so pretty (and quite clever), I sashayed to my husband's arms.

We drove to the restaurant.

From where we parked, we had to walk about a half-block to get to the restaurant.

Here's the only problem with homemade thigh-highs: they stay up just fine while you're sitting down, but with each step you take, they roll down. 


Without much warning.

So I am walking along, and the next thing I know, my pantyhose are rolling up like window shades in a swift descent to my ankles.  

I grab both now-knee highs and try to continue my walk with dignity.

But my dress also stopped a little above my knee.  Precisely where the pantyhose were perched, visible to the nations.

I managed to quickly yank them back up to my thighs, but the sheer force of my death-like grip caused giant runners to start. 

It took approximately 47 years for us to walk past gads of people and finally be seated at our table.

My husband and I were laughing so hard, we caused a little scene.

I discreetly removed the hose and put them in my purse.

And then we had one of the greatest dinners of our lives and topped it off with creme brulee.

Hence the story and the recipe!

Happy Valentine's Day, friends!

Now go kiss your sweetie!

(And make this dessert...)

Ingredients:  Heavy cream, 4 eggs (yolks only), vanilla bean, sugar, salt.

Vanilla Beans
(If you don't have any beans, substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.)

Add the beans to the heavy cream and sugar mixture
that you are gently heating.

These are 5-ounce ramekins.
I got them here.
Place them in a baking dish or baking sheet with sides.

Whisk together the egg yolks, a pinch of salt, and half of the sugar.

Cut open the softened bean pod and scrape out the seeds.

Give the hot cream/sugar/vanilla bean mixture a good whisk.

Use a ladle to pour a small amount of the cream mixture into the egg yolks
(so they won't curdle).
This is called "tempering."

Then add the rest.

Divide the mixture among the ramekins.

Fill the baking dish with hot water almost halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 300 degrees.

Let them cool for a few minutes at room temperature,
then transfer to fridge.

When you're ready to caramelize the tops,
sprinkle with about a tablespoon of sugar.

I love my kitchen torch, so I used it here.

But you can also broil them at 500 degrees for about 4-5 minutes
(keeping an eye on them of course!)

If the caramelized topping was ice and the custard were water,
this is an iced-over pond I'd volunteer to fall into.

Creme Brulee
Serves 4

4 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar, divided
4 egg yolks
1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
pinch of salt (less than 1/8 teaspoon)

Prepare oven and baking dishes: Heat oven to 300 degrees. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Place four 5-ounce baking dishes in a large roasting pan or baking sheet with rim.

Gently heat cream: In a medium saucepan, combine cream and half the sugar (doesn't have to be perfect...just dump out half of the 1/3 cup of sugar into the cream).  Toss the vanilla bean into the cream. Heat over medium just until mixture starts to bubble around the edge of the pan, 7 to 8 minutes (do not let boil).

Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks: In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks with remaining sugar (the remaining half of the 1/3 cup) and the salt.

Remove vanilla bean:  Use a slotted spoon to remove the bean from the cream.  After it's cooled just a bit, use a sharp knife to split the bean and scrape as many of the tiny beans back into the cream mixture.

Temper eggs: Use ladle to pour a small amount of the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture, then whisk to combine. (This is called tempering and prevents the eggs from curdling.) Add two more ladles of cream mixture, one at a time, whisking to combine after each addition. Gradually whisk in remaining cream mixture.

Bake: Divide custard evenly among baking dishes. Place pan in oven. Add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake until custards are just set (they should tremble slightly in center when shaken), 30 to 40 minutes.

Chill: Remove pan from oven. Use tongs to carefully remove dishes from hot-water bath and place on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Then, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours (or up to 3 days) before serving. The custard will finish setting in the refrigerator. If you like, transfer the custards to the freezer 15 minutes before serving to ensure they stay cold after being bruleed (this is especially important if using the broiler).

Caramelize tops and serve: Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon granulated sugar over each custard. Working with one at a time, pass the flame of the torch in a circular motion 1 to 2 inches above the surface of each custard until the sugar bubbles, turns amber, and forms a smooth surface. Serve immediately.

Or, if using the broiler:  make sure the top rack of the oven is as close to the oven heating element as possible.  Heat broiler to 500 degrees.  Place the ramekins on the top shelf and broil for 4-5 minutes (this time may vary depending on your oven!  You need to be standing right there so you can check to make sure they are not burning!).  You may have to rotate the dishes to get even caramelizing.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart


Anjie Fitch said...

I adore creme brulee!!! Why yes of course I will stop by to eat some soon!! Thank u!!!

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