Why a blowtorch, you ask? Why not a knife, peeler, or pancake mold in the shape of Darth Vader? These are all great questions. I'm not sure even he knows. He simply plucked it off the shelf and asked for it to be gift wrapped. And yes. I am now the proud owner of a blowtorch. My mother was absolutely horrified. My brother promptly went to look for lighter fluid and things to light on fire.
Why the back-story? Because for a Parisian film, what better treat to make than crème brûlée? And so, never having attempting such a difficult, and, well, blow-torchy dessert, I thought--why not? And while it did not end up exactly perfect, I do present to you my recipe for crème brûlée. Oui Oui. Eiffel Tour. Berets. Feeling french yet?
Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée
(Adapted from Williams Sonoma Recipe in the blowtorch box.)
1/2 vanilla bean
2 cups heavy cream
3 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup plus 4 Tbs. sugar
- Preheat an oven to 300°F. Have a pot of boiling water ready. Line a baking pan that is 2 to 3 inches deep with a small kitchen towel.
- Using a small knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise down the middle and scrape the seeds into a 2-quart saucepan.
- Add the cream, mix together and then turn on the heat to medium-high. Warm the cream until bubbles form around the edges of the pan and steam begins to rise from the surface. Remove from the heat and set aside, about 15 minutes.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, salt and the 1/4 cup sugar until smooth and blended. Gradually whisk in the cream to the egg mixture, continuing until blended.
- Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Divide the custard among four 5- or 6-oz. ramekins and place the ramekins in the prepared baking pan.
- Add boiling water to fill the pan halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil and bake until the custard is just set around the edges, 35 to 40 minutes.
- Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.
- Just before serving, sprinkle 1 Tbs. of the sugar evenly over each custard. Using a kitchen torch (woohoo, open flame!), torch the sugar until it hardens and is slightly golden brown. Do not burn--no matter how much fun the torch is. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Despite my best efforts, the custard did not completely harden and took on an almost yogurty texture. I was also a little overzealous with my first torching, and used too much sugar and too much flame. (Note to boyfriend: I can totally use the torch. You don't need to hover next to me, eyes wide with terror.) Burnt sugar=yuck. Still, though a little burnt and soupy, the taste was delicious. Make sure you use real vanilla beans instead of vanilla extract. It makes a serious difference. I also used some leftover strawberries as garnishes, as seen below. Now I just have to figure out--what else can I torch? Muhuhahahahaha....
There are several very helpful videos online, and I've put the one I used below. Check him out--doesn't he look official?