vanilla bean creme brulee

This past week was one of the most stressful weeks of my life.  Here's a recap:

Last Sunday evening we put an offer in on a new condo, which was accepted.

On Monday we officially sold our condo.

All week we worked furiously (on top of our already busy full-time jobs) to secure financing, arrange inspections, and read stacks upon stacks of documents for our new condo.

On Friday we had confirmation that we were 100% buying the new condo.

With all this craziness going on, Hubby and I were also hosting a dinner for some of our close friends on Saturday night.  Dessert is always my downfall.  I'm more comfortable cooking than I am baking.  I like to freestyle my measurements, rather than measure them out perfectly.  Dessert and I are not always friends.  I had originally thought of making meringues with fruit for dessert, but those thoughts were squashed when my mom bought me a cookbook called "Creme Brulee".  I admit that I was a little extremely intimidated by the thought of making creme brulee from scratch.  But after the week that I had just conquered, I felt like I could tackle anything.  And I did.

Creme brulee is, by far, my most favourite dessert ever.  The hard burnt sugar shell that you crack open to reveal a sweet, silky centre is nothing short of amazing.  Rich and creamy.  Smooth and delicious.

Give it a try, it's not hard at all, and you'll be rewarded with one of the most amazing desserts.


1 vanilla bean*
2 1/2 cups heavy cream (I used whipping cream)
8 egg yolks
1/4 cup superfine sugar
3 tablespoons confectioner's sugar

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Place 6 ovenproof ramekins (or custard cups, or whatever small dishes you have that are ovenproof) into a roasting pan and set aside.

Start by slitting the vanilla bean lengthwise and putting in a medium saucepan.  Pour the cream into the pan and, over medium-high, heat bring it almost to a boil.  Remove from the heat and let the vanilla bean swim in the cream for 15 minutes, for the flavours to develop.

While you're letting the bean and the cream do there stuff, separate the egg yolks and whites of the eggs (keep the egg whites covered in the fridge and make yourself an egg-white omelette for breakfast in the morning).  Add the superfine sugar, and mix.

Lift the vanilla bean out of the cream, making sure to scrape out all the black seeds into the cream.  Discard the bean casing. Reheat the cream over medium-high heat.  Again, don't let this mixture come to a boil.

Once the cream is reheated, gradually add it into the egg and sugar mixture, until everything is incorporated.  With a fine-mesh strainer, strain the mixture back into the saucepan.

Pour the mixture into the 6 oven-proof ramekins and pour warm water around the dishes.  The water should come about halfway up the sides of the dishes.

Put into the oven an bake for 20 - 25 minutes (mine took a little bit longer, just keep an eye on them).  You'll know they're done once they are just set, with a slight softness in the centre.

Once they're done, pull them out of the oven and let them cool in the water.  Once cool, lift the ramekins out of the water and chill in the fridge for 3 - 4 hours (or overnight, like I did).

About 25 minutes before you want to serve your creme brulee, pull the ramekins out of the fridge and let them sit on the counter.  To serve, sprinkle the tops with confectioner's sugar (no need to sift) and caramelize using a blowtorch (!).  After caramelizing, let them sit for a minute or two to let the tops harden, and then serve!

*If you can't find a vanilla bean, you can add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract instead.  Don't add it to the cream though, add the extract to the egg yolks.  I found my vanilla beans (pack of two) at Safeway in the baking aisle.

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