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Home| Tahitian Vanilla Crème Brulee
Tahitian Vanilla Crème Brulee
Tahitian Vanilla Crème BruleeTahitian 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 warm.

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.

Copyright 2013 Ming Tsai