|Tahitian Vanilla Crème Brulee|
Few eating pleasures are
greater than a mouthful of this creamy custard with its crackling caramel
topping. Everyone loves the combo. There are many flavored crème brulees
around—I’ve seen them spiked with tea, with lemongrass, with ginger,
coffee, and fruit. When it comes to this incomparable dessert, however,
I’m a purist: classic is best. And this version is classic classic.
I’d be lying if I said that this is a true East-West dish; the vanilla
beans from the South Pacific are as close to Asia as this dessert gets. In
any case, try to get Tahitian beans-they’re particularly plump and
fragrant-though any fresh vanilla beans will do.
1 cup half-and half
1 vanilla bean, preferably Tahitian
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 egg plus 8 egg yolks
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, cold
4 tablespoons superfine sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 325
f. In a small saucepan, combine the half-and-half, vanilla bean, and
vanilla extract. Heat over medium heat just until scalded; do not allow
the mixture to boil.
2. Fill a large bowl with water and add ice. In a medium mixing bowl,
combine the egg, egg yolks, and granulated sugar and mix. Gradually stir
in the scalded half-and-half mixture and place the smaller bowl in the
bowl of ice water to cool completely. Stir in the heavy cream and divide
among eight 4-ounce ramekins. Place in a baking dish just large enough to
hold them and add enough hot water to the pan to come halfway up the sides
of the ramekins. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake until
the custard is set but still quivers in the center, about 35 minutes.
Remove the ramekins from the water and refrigerate to cool completely.
3. Preheat the broiler, if using. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the sugar on
top of each custard, spread over the surface, and tap out any excess.
Place the ramekins on a broiling tray and broil until the top is melted
and caramelized, about 30 seconds. Watch carefully; the sugar can burn
easily. If using a torch pass the flame about 2 inches over the surface of
the custards until the sugar is completely caramelized. Serve while still
Ming's Tip: To caramelize the sugar coating, use either a broiler
or propane torch. Working with the latter may seem scary, but torches are
easily handled and are beautifully efficient. Look for a small version,
often called a kitchen torch. If using a torch, replace the superfine
sugar. Raw sugar caramelizes more successfully under a torch flame.