French in a Flash (Classic): Vanilla Bean Cr\u00e8me Br\u00fbl\u00e9e

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[Photographs: Kerry Saretsky]

To me, crème brûlée is elegant and sophisticated, but made from simplicity. The dessert equivalent of French chic. How can it look so good but be so easy?

Crème brûlée, literally "burnt cream," is four ingredients: eggs, cream, sugar, and vanilla. It takes ten minutes to put the custard together, and then all you have to do is check in on it a couple of times. You can make it ahead—in fact, you should. It is not hard, or expensive, or fussy. And yet, everyone marvels at it. The amber stained glass lid atop each cold, sweet, luscious creamy pot is dainty, strident, and perfect.

It just goes to show again how so much of classic French cuisine is about knowing a few secrets of preparation, not esoteric ingredients or difficult execution. This crème brûlée may be the love of my life.

About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way. She also writes the The Secret Ingredient series for Serious Eats.

French in a Flash (Classic): Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée

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About This Recipe

Yield:6

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1/3 cup plus 6 teaspoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 large egg yolks

Procedures

  1. 1

    Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat the oven to 300°F. Add heavy cream, vanilla bean seeds, and pod to small saucepot. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until little bubbles form around sides of the cream in the pot.

  2. 2

    Combine egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar in bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until pale yellow and yolks fall off of whisk in ribbons, about 2 minutes, scraping bowl as necessary. With mixer running on medium-low speed, slowly add hot cream mixture. Whisk until thoroughly combined.

  3. 3

    Place a folded kitchen towel (or a few paper towels) on the bottom of a roasting pan or glass baking dish large enough to hold six 6-ounce ramekins. Place ramekins on top of towel and ladel custard base evenly between them. Remove one ramekin and carefully pour hot water into baking dish until it comes 1/2 way up sides of ramekins. Replace missing ramekin.

  4. 4

    Bake until custard is set but still jiggles in center, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature without removing ramekins from water bath. Once cool, cover ramekins in plastic and refrigerate until set, at elast 4 hours, and up to overnight.

  5. 5

    To serve, sprinkle each ramekin with 1 teaspoon sugar. Brown with kitchen torch, and serve immediately.

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