Quick and Comforting: Crème Brûlée

Comfort foods.  We all have them.  And as long as it’s done in moderation, I am all about them.  I mean God gave us tastes buds for a reason.  If food’s sole purpose was nourishment, why make so many different tastes and aromas and textures?  Because He wanted us to ENJOY it!

Food can be an almost spiritual experience.  Our favorites can make even our worst days feel instantly better.  If I’m having a rough morning and you bring me a mocha or some cheesecake, we’re pretty much going to be BFFs for life.  That’s how food works for me. Let’s get real, that’s how food works for most of us.

comfort food quote

That’s why I’m going to share this ridiculously easy recipe for crème brûlée.  This along with bread pudding and homemade salsa are my husband’s favorite comfort foods.  If I know he’s having a bad day, I try to make sure he’s at least got a delicious dessert to look forward to after the kids go to bed.  One secret to a happy marriage: know your partner’s comfort foods.  Nothing builds relationships like the giving of tasty foods.  Okay, maybe there are a few other important things that help build relationships, but treat giving should definitely be on that list!  🙂

I wish I had known 20 years ago how quick and simple crème brûlée is to make.  Mind you the whole process takes a few hours, but the parts that involve you actually doing stuff  is only about 15 minutes all together.  I think we all have 15 minutes to devote to creating this indulgence.  Totally worth it, I promise!

Most of the store-bought crème brûlée mixes I’ve seen have caramel coloring in them (plus a lot of extra junk that is completely unnecessary).  It’s also not a whole lot faster.  So this is a dye-free version you can safely enjoy with the kids. If you feel like sharing with your kids…I’ll be honest, we usually don’t. We might be terrible parents.  Jury’s still out.

Anyway, sharing or not, all you need are these four ingredients: heavy cream, vanilla, egg yolks, and sugar.

creme brulee ingredients

This recipe is for two (because, like I said, it’s usually just for us), but can be easily doubled or tripled if you like.  Crème brûlée is an awesome dish to whip up for dinner guests.  It keeps well in the fridge for up to 4 days (just save the caramelizing step for when you’re ready to serve it).  So make it ahead of time and then impress the heck out of your friends with dessert.  They’ll love you for it.  You’ll love you for it.  Everybody wins.  Yay!  Now, on to the recipe.

First, preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Bring a pint of heavy cream and a teaspoon of vanilla to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat.  When it has just started bubbling (usually takes 6-7 minutes), remove it from the heat and allow it to cool down for around 10 minutes.  For the record, I do other things like dishes, dealing with kids, etc during these in-between waiting times.  It makes it feel like a quicker recipe when you’re not just standing at the stove waiting for stuff to happen.

simmer cream and vanilla creme brulee

While the cream is cooling, whisk together 3 egg yolks and 1/3 cup of sugar.  If you want to flavor your crème brûlée (with orange, lavender, lemon, cinnamon and so on) add what you want to this mixture now.  One of my favorite variations is chocolate; just mix in a half tablespoon of chocolate powder.

whisk yolks and sugar creme brulee

If you’re still waiting for your cream to cool, you can go ahead and prepare the ramekins and water bath.  Lightly grease a couple ramekins with coconut or olive oil (6 to 8 oz ramekins work well for two servings).  Place them in a glass baking dish, then fill the dish about half way up with hot water.  If you get it too full, it will be difficult not to spill as you move it in and out of the oven.  You want the water to be at least a third of the way up the side of the ramekins, like mine pictured below.

water bath creme brulee

Next, mix your cream and egg mixtures together, stirring until well blended.

mix cream and eggs creme brulee

Pour this mix into your prepared ramekins, and put the whole water bath in the oven.

water bath creme brulee

Bake it for about 40 minutes.  You want it to be set, but still a little jiggly in the middle.  When it’s done, take the water bath out of the oven.  Let the whole thing cool to room temperature (about an hour) before you remove the ramekins.  They look like this when they’re done.

cooked creme brulee

If you like your crème brûlée warm, then serve them now.  If you want it to really set up and chill properly, then cover the ramekins with saran wrap and stick them in the fridge for at least two hours (or overnight if you’re making it ahead of time).

That’s all there is to it if you want it plain (and yeah, sometimes we do, because we just can’t wait!).  But, after all, crème brûlée means “burned cream” – and it’s just not the same without that caramelized sugar to top it off.  Now, you can get all fancy and buy a mini blow torch or a tiny branding iron to do this part, or you can do it the not-cool way (like me) using the broiler in your oven.

Cover the surface of your crème brûlée with sugar.

sugar caramelize creme brulee

Stick it in the oven about six to eight inches away from the broiler.  It doesn’t take long for the sugar to caramelize, only two or three minutes.

broiler caramelize creme brulee

Keep a close eye on them, and turn the dishes if necessary so they caramelize evenly.  I doubt that truly “burned cream” tastes very good; so take them out when they start to look burned, don’t leave them in long enough to actually be burned.

caramelized sugar creme brulee

**Important note** If you had your ramekins in the fridge, let them warm up on the counter for at least 30 minutes before you put them under a broiler or they may crack.

comfort food creme brulee

There it is.  You worked hard for it (well, hard for like 15 minutes, right?).  Dig in!  You deserve it.  🙂

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