Introduction: Creme Brulee

We give a step-by-step description of how to make your own Creme Brulee - complete with torching the sugar at the end.

By following these steps, you will end up with a delicious thick and smooth vanilla cream, done according to all the tricks of the trade.

The photo session for this instructable involved making half of the batch with saffron added to the Creme Brulee. However, since this did not actually turn out very different at all, we will ignore the saffron in the actual instructable (though not, as it were, in the photos).

This instructable was built in cooperation with maradydd, who produced most of the pictures.

Step 1: Ingredients and Tools

Our amounts will make six (6) ramekins full of Creme Brulee.

You will need (ingredients):
  • one vanilla bean
  • 5dl / 1 pint of thick cream. We used 35% cream.
  • 1dl / 1/2 cup of plain refined sugar
  • 1dl / 1/2 cup of nice sugar - we used unrefined brown sugar
  • 3 eggs (really only the yolks. Make meringues (link here!) with the whites!)
  • some butter

You will also need (equipment)
  • A sharp knife
  • A small spoon
  • A whisk
  • A saucepan
  • A deep pan. The kind you make lasagna in will do. It has to be oven-proof and about as deep as your
  • 6 ramekins. We used teacups we found at a weird stuff shop.
  • Mixing bowl.
  • A stove and an oven.

It will help if you also have a ladle. For the funky fire exercises, you'll need a butane torch. You could use the oven set to broil as an alternative solution, but that has less fire involved.

Step 2: Extract the Vanilla From the Vanilla Bean and Infuse the Cream

Cut a lengthwise slit in the vanilla bean with your knife.

Fold the bean open, and use a spoon to carve out the black gunk. This is actually very many vanilla seeds bunched closely together, and is what makes real vanilla things speckled with small black dots.

Put both the seed pods and the bean into the cream in a sauce pan, and boil. You will want to stir continuously and use low heat while doing this - otherwise your cream may burn, your Creme Brulee may be ruined and you will have an annoying cleanup task.

Let the cream sit 15 minutes with bean and pods and everything. Meanwhile, prepare the egg yolks and sugar mixture.

Step 3: Split Eggs

Split all the eggs to separate the yolk from the white. We're going to need the yolks for this recipe - and you could use the whites to do meringues or something else nice.

There are very handy egg separators to be had for a low cost that will make this easy.

Or you can just do it by hand:
Over an empty bowl, give your egg a rap with a knife. You want a straight and clean crack in the egg shell, preferably through the membrane, but not deep enough to touch the yolk.

Then crack the egg open, and start decanting the white from it. You may want to slip the yolk back and forth between the two egg shell halves you hold a few times to get most of the whites away from it.

Once you're done, put the extracted yolk in one collection bowl, and the white in another. For quite a few recipes, meringues as an example, it is important not to have any yolk in the egg whites - and collecting the whites in a different bowl than the one you split your eggs over will help you get a clean egg white in the end.

Step 4: Whisk Egg Yolks and Sugar

Take the yolks and the white sugar, and beat them until the mixture becomes significantly lighter in colour.

Step 5: Mix Yolk-sugar With Vanilla-cream

Once the vanilla cream has infused for at least 15 minutes, we can fish out the vanilla bean and mix the remaining cream with the yolk-sugar mixture. The vanilla bean can be saved for other infusions - such as using it in tea, or in rice pudding, riz a la malta, or vanilla vodka, to mention a few ideas.

Then mix the remaining cream with the yolk-sugar mixture from the previous step. Keep on mixing this until it is smooth in texture.

Grease the ramekins and fill them up to about 3/4 of the way up with the cream-yolk-sugar mixture.

In the pictures, we split the vanilla cream in two different bowls and add saffron. In retrospect, this didn't actually bring anything good, so ignore that. The essence is you need to mix all of the cream with all of the yolk-sugar.

Step 6: Bake the Creme Brulee in a Bain Mairie

We need to heat the custard gently, to make it set by denaturating the proteins in the egg yolk in a slow and gentle enough fashion.

There is an age-old french technique for this: bain mairie:
we submerge everything in boiling water, and keep the heat on, so that after a while everything is at a temperature just above the point where eggs tend to solidify.

So, all the ramekins go into a container, the container gets filled up with boiling water until the water and the custard are about level. Take CARE at this point not to pour or splash any water into the ramekins. And then everything goes into the oven, at about 150 C / 300 F for about an hour. When they're done, the custard should still wobble, but not really splash.

Step 7: Chill and Rest

Chill out. The custards need to set for about two hours. They may freely rest longer - in fact, everything up to this point may well be done several days ahead of time.

We spent this time getting dinner and making meringues.

Step 8: Add Sugar and Burn

Now spread some raw sugar on the surface of each custard, and either put them in the oven on broil until the sugar is melted and delicious.

Or melt the sugar on each individually by using a butane torch. This, obviously, has more geek appeal and is thus obviously the one we used.

Step 9: Enjoy Greatly

Om nom nom nom nom.

We hope you enjoyed this our first Instructable!

- maradydd & michiexile