A well-made crème brûlée is a beautiful thing. The tap of a spoon cracks its crisp cover to release a smooth layer of creamy custard beneath, traditionally with just a hint of vanilla.
While some accounts suggest that the birthplace of crème brûlée may not have been France, early French versions of the dessert had a separately prepared caramel disc layered on top of the custard, rather than the contemporary method of caramelising the sugar directly on top.
Whatever its place of birth, this iconic dessert is closely associated with the French, and the combination of smooth and crunchy has kept the crème brûlée popular for centuries. The delicate nature of the dish can be intimidating for home cooks, but as head chef at Café Amalia Jerome Braband explains, the perfect crème brûlée is not that far out of reach.
What you'll need:
1 litre heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
175g caster sugar
10 egg yolks
Preheat the oven to 160C.
Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan, set over medium-high heat and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean.
In a medium bowl, whisk together ½ cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and the colour starts to lighten. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into 6 (7–8 ounce) ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan so as to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the crème brûlée is set but still trembling in the centre (approximately 40–45 minutes). Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Remove the crème brûlée from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Divide 50g of sugar equally among the six dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a torch (these can be purchased from most good kitchenware stores) melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow the crème brûlée to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.
For a slight twist on this classic dessert, flavoured sugars can be used on top. There are several available, including sugar infused with lavender or citrus.
As chef Braband says: “For lovers of crème brûlée there is no better dessert. Cracking through the hard caramel top to get to the sweet, creamy custard is tout simplement merveilleux.”
Café Amalia will open for the first time on a Sunday to celebrate Bastille Day on July 14 from 10am to 2pm. They will be serving French brunch including French toast, croque-monsieur, brioche, French Eggs Florentine and lots of champagne.