Classic Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée

  • 2 ¾ cups whipping cream
  • 1 vanilla pod or 1 tbsp vanilla pod paste
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 whole large egg
  • ¾ cup sugar, plus extra for the brûlée

Preheat the oven to 325°F and place 6 ramekins or other 6-ounce baking dishes in a large pan where the sides of the pan are higher than the ramekins.

Heat the cream on medium low with the scraped seeds of the vanilla bean pod (and the pod, too, if you wish). If using vanilla bean paste, whisk it into the cream and heat. Heat the cream for about 5 minutes, watching so that it doesn’t boil over.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg and sugar together. Whisk in the hot cream slowly, whisking constantly (but not overly vigorously) until all has been added. Strain and then ladle or pour this into the ramekins. If any small bubbles appear on the surface of the custards, use the corner of a paper towel to dab them off (the bubbles, if left on, prevent the brûlée from browning easily and evenly).

Pour boiling water carefully around the brûlée dishes, so that the water comes up just past halfway up the dishes and carefully take this to the oven. Bake the custards for about 30 minutes, until they are set around the edges, but still have a little jiggle to them when gently moved. Let the custards cool for 10 minutes in the water bath, then remove them using a tea towel or oven mitt to cool completely on a rack. Chill the custards for at least 3 hours before serving.

To serve, sprinkle each custard with a thin layer of sugar. Carefully ignite a kitchen butane torch and caramelize the sugar by moving the torch back and forth over the custard, about an inch or 2 away from it. Sprinkle another thin layer of sugar over the first layer and torch it, repeating another 2 times or until the desired caramel layer is achieved. Serve immediately.

The brûlées will keep refrigerated (but without the brûlée layer) for up to 2 days.

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