The birth of the Crème Brûlée came about in the 17th century after the young Duke of Orléans complained one mealtime to his chef, François Massialot, that his cream was cold. The chef applied a hot iron to the cream’s surface, thus caramelising the sugar and the duke liked the dish so much, he asked for it again! My recipe includes instructions for making this dish using a grill, but if you have a blowtorch, even better! Nothing compares with that moment when the sugar crust of a crème brûlée gives way and the recipe’s simple if you follow all the steps, so give it a go!
1. Preheat the oven to 140°c. Put aside a slightly deep metal tray that will be large enough to ft in all four of the ramekins for later.
2. Extract the seeds of one of the vanilla beans by splitting it in two down the middle with a knife and using the knife to scrape them out. Add the seeds and the bean halves to the crème fleurette and let the mixture simmer gently in a pan on a low heat for about 10 minutes.
3. In the meanwhile, beat air into the egg yolks and 100g of the caster sugar with a fork until the mixture becomes pale and slightly fluffy. Put the ramekins into the tray and fill the tray with boiling water until it reaches about halfway up the ramekins.
4. Take the pan off the heat, remove the vanilla bean halves and add the egg mixture to the pan, then stir until all the components are evenly distributed.
5. Pour the mixture into the ramekins, making sure they’re filled to the top, and carefully transfer the tray to the oven. Leave the crèmes to cook for one hour (once they’re done, transfer them to the fridge to rest for at least 2-3 hours – don’t worry if they look a bit jiggly as soon as they’re out the oven, that’s normal!)
6. While they’re cooking, you can prepare the sugar-topping – gently heat the remaining caster sugar until it melts. As soon as it has all melted, quickly pour it onto a piece of foil. Once it has cooled completely, pop it into a mortar and and use a pestle to crush it into a powder.
7. Remove the first crème from the fridge and quickly sprinkle the sugar-topping onto the top. The most important thing to do is to do so quickly so that the sugar doesn’t start sinking into the crème, and also to ensure the powder layer is 2-3mm thick at the very most.
8. Quickly put the ramekin into the grill, making sure it’s as close to the top of the grill as possible. Keep a close eye on the crème, waiting until the surface is bubbling and golden before you take it out. Do this for the remaining ramekins, and leave them to cool a little.
9. Get out your teaspoons, and get cracking!