Foolproof crème brûlée
This is an all-time classic, and deservedly so. This version baked in ramekins in a bain marie is guaranteed to avoid the potential pitfalls of custard that won't set or sugar that somehow scorches before it melts. Using soft brown sugar for the caramel top may not be authentic, but it has a lower melting point than caster sugar and behaves more predictably under the hot grill (or cook's blowtorch). You do need to make the custards well in advance, as chilling them thoroughly in the fridge before the final sugar melting is vital.
Prep 20mins Cook 40mins Servs 6
Pour the cream into a saucepan. Slit the vanilla pod open lengthways and scrape out the seeds into the cream with the tip of a sharp knife, then add the pod to the pan too. Scald the cream by bringing to just below boiling point, then taking off the heat. Leave for a few minutes to infuse with the vanilla.
Whisk the caster sugar and egg yolks together in a bowl, then slowly whisk in the hot, vanilla-infused cream. Strain through a fine sieve into a jug. Pour the custard into six 125ml ramekins or custard cups.
Stand the dishes in a roasting dish and surround with enough handhot water to come halfway up their sides. Place in an oven preheated to 150°C/Gas Mark 2 and bake for about 30 minutes until the custards are just set; they should still wobble a bit if you shake the dish gently.
Lift out of the roasting dish and leave to cool, then chill thoroughly. Sprinkle a very thin, even layer of soft brown sugar over each custard and put them under a very hot grill until the sugar melts and bubbles (or use a cook's blowtorch, if you have one). Leave to cool, return the ramekins to the fridge until the sugar is hard - just 15 minutes or so should do it - then serve.
Bramley or rhubarb crème brûlée
We sometimes put a little Bramley apple compote or rhubarb compote in the ramekins before filling them with the custard. The compote should be tart, to cut the richness of the brûlée, and not too runny. Fill the ramekins between a quarter and a third of the way up with the compote, then pour in the custard to within 1-2mm of the top. Bake and finish as above.
- 500ml double cream
- 1 vanilla pod
- 100g caster sugar
- 6 medium egg yolks
- About 3 tablespoons soft brown sugar
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