How to Make Crème Brûlée — Without a Torch

Brooke Newberry
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Taking the intimidation out of creme brulee is easy – there is no need for a torch or any special ingredients. This favorite dessert can be made at home with just a few ingredients, a watchful eye and a hot broiler. Oven-broiled creme brulee is a lovely mess of splattered burnt sugar (often blackened around the edges) that is just the right amount of rustic. That frequently dismissed or scraped slight tad of burnt bitter is actually the perfect counterpart to the sweet, smooth custard.

 

No Torch Crème Brûlée

4 Servings; ~90 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 3 egg yolks from large eggs
  • 1/3 cup granulated white sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup fine white sugar

Heat the oven to 275°F. Whisk egg yolks in a medium bowl. Split vanilla bean down the center and scrape the seeds into the egg yolks with a butter knife. Whisk, then add in the granulated white sugar and pinch of salt (about ¼ teaspoon) and continue to whisk. Beat in just a drizzle of the cream, whisking it into the egg mixture to lighten it, then whisk in the rest of the cream.

Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into another bowl to ensure smooth consistency. 

Pour the custard into four ramekins, filling as close to the top as possible, then place them in a larger baking dish. Boil about four cups of water to cover the ramekins halfway up the sides the baking dish.

If using shallow dishes and the custard is less than one inch deep, bake for about 30 minutes. If the dishes or ramekins are narrower and the custard is above one inch, bake for about 60 minutes.

Remove the ramekins from the baking dish, let them cool for about five minutes, then refrigerate for at least an hour. The custard needs to be cold and fully set before attempting the sugar crust.

 

To make the sugar crust:

Make sure the tops of the creme brulees are dry and that there is no condensation. Very carefully dab the tops with a paper towel if there is any moisture. Sprinkle a thick, even layer of the baker’s sugar over the top. You should almost be able to still see the custard.

Place the ramekins in the oven on highest rack and turn on the broiler to high. Broil for five to 10 minutes, watching very carefully and rotating them frequently so that they broil evenly. Take them out when they are golden brown and bubbling.

Let sit for 10 minutes and serve. Or if a cold creme brulee is desired, place the ramekins back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, then serve. Just remember, the longer the brulee sits in the fridge, the higher the chances are of the sugar crust softening.

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