Ah, That First Crack and Then...Pure Heaven!
Not surprisingly, I'm not much of a baker, although I do try, especially during the holiday season. Now don't get me wrong--I'm fine with whipping up a quick cake, a few hand pies, even a simple, but insanely rich cheesecake, but beyond that, I find baking a tedious chore. This, I am sure, is because it is such an exact science dependent on careful measurement and my natural inclination is to pinch, dab, and dash my way through a recipe.
What I do like in a dessert is simplicity--the fewest ingredients for the biggest bang. I don't like my desserts too sweet, though I will admit that when given a piece of cake, my sole objective is the frosting, but, that's an exception hardwired in my DNA and cultivated throughout a childhood where my mother always passed off the icing bowl to me so that I could lick it clean. My usual approach is to cut the sugar by half in most dessert recipes, a trick that allows the subtle nuance of the other ingredients to tickle the palate and besides, dessert should compliment the meal, rounding out the experience and allowing the meal to stay alive in my memory, if even only for a short while.
I want a dessert that still has me licking my lips and savoring the memory, hours after I've left the table and I've found few that have that power. One of my favorite by far is Crème Brûlèe. The rich vanilla custard is best with less sugar, especially since the top is sprinkled with coarse sugar and run under the broiler until caramelized and nearly burnt. Even better--get one of those miniature blow torches and fire it up table side and enjoy the laughter and squeals as your guests marvel at your culinary expertise.
A Simple Crème Brûlèe Recipe
6 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1 T high quality Madagascar vanilla
Pinch of high quality sea salt (flakes)
Sugar in the Raw
*Preheat oven to 325 degrees
1. Beat egg yolks and sugar together with a whisk until golden.
2. Slowly beat in the heavy whipping cream, a little at a time, until fully incorporated.
3. Beat in the vanilla and sea salt.
4. Divide mixture between baking ramekins--or whatever else you have on hand.
5. Place ramekins into a large, rimmed baking dish and position on the middle rack of the oven.
6. Pour boiling water into the baking dish so that the sides of the ramekins are 2/3 of the way in the water.
7. Bake until custards are set, but still slightly wiggle (Over-baked custard is an unforgivable sin.)
8. Remove from oven and let cool slightly; generously sprinkle tops with raw sugar and fire up the blow torch, or slide under the broiler until nearly burnt and caramelized to perfection.