Crème Brûlée for Two

This isn’t just my first time making crème brûlée, it’s the very first time I’ve ever tried it. I know, right?! I’ve never been a fan of custard-type desserts but crème brûlée is a favorite of so many people I know I figured I’d eventually cave and see what all the fuss was about.

So, I bought the little kitchen torch and fluted dishes years and years ago with every intention of making it, but they’ve been sitting in my basement pantry untouched ever since (though I do pull the torch out from time to time to toast marshmallows!). And I’ve never been tempted to order crème brûlée at a restaurant – with all the other good options on the menu, why choose something I might not like? How very adventurous of me :)

Crème Brûlée for Two

Stumbling upon this recipe was the key to me finally checking this dessert off my to-do list. Crème brûlée for two, it was perfect! Even if I hated it, there wouldn’t be a ton to throw away. Plus, the instructions were really precise, which took any and all guess work out of the process. In fact, this is probably one of the easiest desserts I’ve ever made. Sprinkling the sugar over the top and caramelizing it was of course the best part!

As I cracked into the sugary crust and grabbed my first spoonful, I tried to keep an open mind, but I really didn’t have high expectations. I’m not ashamed to say I was completely wrong, this crème brûlée was fantastic!! If you’ve ever made homemade vanilla ice cream and sampled the custard before churning, the flavor here was very reminiscent of that. The custard had a really smooth and creamy texture, a perfect contrast to the crisp crust sitting on top of it. I’m definitely a crème brûlée convert, and frankly, I’m a little disappointed I’ve been missing out all these years :)

Crème Brûlée for Two
from Cook’s Illustrated

1 cup cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
pinch salt
3 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-4 teaspoons turbinado sugar (for finishing)

Preheat oven to 300 F with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Place a kitchen towel in the bottom of a roasting pan and place two 4 or 5-oz ramekins/fluted dishes on the towel. Set a saucepan of water on the stove and bring to a boil.

In a small saucepan, stir together 1/2 cup of the cream, the sugar and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to help dissolve the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly (5 minutes or so should do the trick). Then, stir in the remaining 1/2 cup heavy cream to further cool the mixture.

In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks together under well combined. Add the vanilla extract and about 1/4 cup of the heavy cream mixture, whisking to combine. Continue gradually adding the heavy cream mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time, until it’s all incorporated and the mixture is uniform in color. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a 2-cup measuring cup (discard any bits of egg captured by the strainer). Pour the mixture into the ramekin/fluted dishes, dividing it evenly among them.

Transfer the roasting pan to your oven rack, and then pour the boiling water into the pan (carefully, you don’t want to get any water in the ramekin). The boiling water should come about 2/3 of the way up the sides of the small ramekins/fluted dishes you’re using. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 170-175 F – the custards will be just barely set. Baking time will vary depending on the size dish you used and range from about 25-40 minutes (my dishes were only 3 oz and baked in about 24 minutes). Begin checking the temperature about 20-25 minutes in and you’ll get a good sense of how much longer they have.

Transfer the roasting pan to a wire rack. When the ramekins are cool enough to handle, take them out of the pan and place on the wire rack. Allow to cool completely, about 2 hours. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and cover the baking sheet tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or up to 4 days.

Remove the plastic wrap. If any condensation collected on the custards, gently use a paper towel to soak it up. Sprinkle each dish with 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of turbinado sugar. Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes (don’t let them sit longer than that) to re-chill before serving.