Today would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday. It seems only fitting to honor her with a special dessert.
Crème Brulee (from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home)
The pleasure of this deliciously rich dessert lies in its contrast of textures, the soft and creamy custard hidden under a brittle sheet of caramelized brown sugar. The custard is baked and served in small ramekins- shallow ceramic soufflé-type molds, round or oval, with a 1/2-cup capacity. You don't have to crust them, since the cooked and chilled custards can be served simply as pots de crème.
The custards will still be soft when the ramekins come out of the oven. Give them plenty of time to chill and set before glazing.
You can melt and caramelize the sugar with a handheld blowtorch of under a broiler. With either method, watch the sugar carefully, since the lovely dark caramel can turn to burnt ash in an instant. It is best to practice with 1 or 2 custards the first time you glaze crème brulee, to gauge the effect of your blowtorch or broiled. Here we use light-brown sugar, which gives a very nice flavor to the crust, but you could glaze granulated sugar instead. Don't try to melt "brownulated sugar," though- it won't work.
Yield: Eight 4-ounce ramekins
3 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, or 2 tsp vanilla extract
Grated zest of a large orange
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light-brown sugar, or more if needed
Eight 4-ounce ramekins (small soufflé molds); a wire whisk; a sieve; a mixing bowl and a large (4-cup) measuring cup; a baking pan with 2-inch sides, large enough to hold all the ramekins; a propane blowtorch (optional)
Making the custards
Preheat the oven to 350.
Pour the cream into a 6-cup saucepan, stir in the vanilla bean or vanilla extract and the orange zest, and bring to the simmer. Remove from heat, cover the pan, and let steep for 5 minutes.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in the mixing bowl for several minutes until the yolks are thick, pale yellow and form a fat, slowly dissolving ribbon when dropped from the whisk back into the bowl.
Remove the vanilla bean from the hot cream (save it- you can use it again). So as not to scrambled the egg yolks, stir by dribbles half a cup of the hot cream into the yolks, stirring (not beating- you do not want to form bubbles). Adding it in a slow stream, stir in the rest of the cream. Set the sieve over the quart measure and strain custard mixture through it to eliminate any coagulated bits of egg and the orange rind. Skim off any bubbles from the surface of the custard.
Arrange the ramekins in the baking pan and pour or ladle 1/2 cup of custard into each, leaving 1/4 inch at the top for the glaze. Set the baking pan in the oven and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up the ramekins.
Bake the custards for 30 to 35 minutes, until the tops are set but the custard in the center is still quite soft to the touch. Carefully remove the baking pan from the oven, and life the ramekins from the hot water/ Let them cool briefly, then chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, at least 4 hours. Either serve them as pots de creme, or glaze them as follows.
Forming the brown-sugar crust
Loosen the brown sugar if packed and break up any lumps with your fingers. Sprinkle a tablespoon or so over each custard and smooth it gently with the back of a spoon, forming an even layer of sugar that completely covers the surface.
To make the crust with a blowtorch: Ignite the torch and direct the flame downward over a ramekin, always keeping the tip of the flame about 8 inches above the sugar. Move the torch around constantly, shifting the focus of the heat as the sugar melts. Heat each custard gradually- for 10 seconds or longer, depending on the power of the torch- until lightly caramelized all over. If one section of sugar is darkening too fast, move the flame to another area, or start heating another ramekin. When all the custards have been crusted, given them a few moments to harden, then serve.
To make the crust under a broiler: Set the ramekins on a heatproof tray or baking dish (1 or 2 at a time if you are not sure how quickly your broiler will crust them). Turn on the broiled and place the ramekins underneath, so the surface of the sugar is about 5 inches below the heat. Leave the door open so you can watch as the sugar melts and starts to caramelize. Turn the ramekins around if one side gets too brown, so that the glaze is consistent all around. Remove the custards as soon as the sugar has turned to a smooth sheet of brown glaze. If it has blackened in spots, set the remaining custards lower or reduce the glazing time. If the ramekins have been heated by the broiled, chill them briefly before serving
this recipe can also be found at some of my favorite food blog hops