Holsts' recipe for creme brulee

Creme brulee is an unashamedly rich dessert. As such, we think it is best served in fairly small quantities — we use little white ramekins that hold just over half a cup each, and think they make a good serving size but, in fact, the mixture could easily be used to fill six slightly smaller dishes and still be satisfying.

If you don't like the idea of using cream only, you can use a mixture of equal parts cream and milk. Interestingly, the full cream version sets a little firmer than the milk and cream version, so in some ways the latter can actually seem creamier in the mouth.

For 4-6 servings:
2 cups cream (or 1 cup cream and 1 cup milk)
2 vanilla pods (optional)
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/8 tsp (pinch) salt
4-8 tsp caster sugar

Pour the cream (or milk and cream) into a small pot or microwave bowl. Add the vanilla pods (if using) and heat gently until it just boils.

Place the egg yolks, first measure of sugar, vanilla essence and salt in another bowl and whisk together.

Remove the vanilla pods (if used) then pour the hot cream mixture into the bowl and whisk again. (If you did use the vanilla pods, you can split them lengthways, gently scrape out the tiny black seeds and add these to the mixture, too.) Pour the mixture through a sieve to remove any lumps, then carefully pour into the four to six ramekins, leaving a few millimetres at the top of each.

Arrange the ramekins in a sponge roll tin or roasting pan and carefully pour in enough hot water to fill to about halfway up the outsides of the ramekins.

Place the tin or pan in a preheated oven and bake at 150degC for 25 to 30 minutes or until the custard has just set (it will still appear a little jiggly, but not runny), then remove them from the oven.

Brulees are versatile and can be served while still quite warm in cool weather, or in warmer weather (or if you are working in advance) cool to room temperature or even refrigerate until required. Just before serving, sprinkle the top of each ramekin evenly with 1 to 2 teaspoons of caster sugar (the smaller quantity for small ramekins or more for larger ones).

Arrange the ramekins on a tray and place under a very hot grill (3cm to 5cm from the heat) for 2 to 3 minutes until the sugar melts and browns. (Alternatively, you can do this with a blowtorch if you have one.) Remove from the heat and let the caramelised sugar cool and harden to form a crisp layer, then serve immediately.

Variations: If you like coffee, try adding 1/4 cup whole roasted coffee beans instead of (or as well as) the vanilla pods. The beans will be removed when the mixture is sieved, but you can add two or three of the collected beans to each ramekin before baking. The just-baked custard has a mild coffee flavour, but this intensifies on standing.


The Southland Times