Everybody has a story about crème brulée from James Beard to Julia Child, about how it was developed in England….and honestly, I just want to say…..blah, blah, blah. Yes, custards and puddings come from England, everyone knows that. It’s on thousands of restaurant menus and ranges from absolutely disgusting puddle of scrambled eggs and cream to an unbelievably divine experience. The most sensual experience I’ve had outside of the bedroom. I’m a big fan of crème brulée as you can tell.
The custards are extremely versatile. We have recipes here for vanilla custard but they could easily become espresso, chocolate, raspberry or dare I say it, passion fruit. [shiver] One of the things you can do is take out most of the fat and still have a really satisfying dessert. Every meal deserves a happy ending. We found a recipe for a fabulous custard and a new method for cooking it in The South Beach Diet Cookbook. The only issue is, that it won’t be quite as rich or luxurious in texture but it’s still satisfying and rather healthy too.
Here we present two versions for crème brulée. The first one is the classic recipe but not the classic method of cooking the custard. The classic cooking method calls for baking the custards in a hot water bath in the oven. Often this produces a skin on top that browns quickly and curdles before the custard is fully cooked. The method we use here, eliminates that problem.
The second recipe is a lighter version, lower in fat adapted from South Beach. You can lower the fat content even more by using 1% milk or skim milk instead of the whole milk with the half and half. Just make sure the volume is 1½ cups. You can eliminate the sugar in the custard by using a sugar substitute that can be cooked, like Splenda but sugar substitute cannot be used for the sugar crust on top which can be omitted if you are really counting calories.
The lightest version made with only 1% milk would be 3 grams of fat per serving. The classic version of crème brulée has a whopping 45 grams of fat per serving. Sorry I told you that, but for a special occasion, sometimes you just have to live. Don’t forget, I said every meal deserves a happy ending, right? So the word here is “enjoy in moderation” and try the lighter version too.
Classic Crème Brulée
adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
edited by Ruth Reichl
makes 6 individual portions
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, or 1½ tsp vanilla extract
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- pinch of salt
- 3 Tbsp turbinado sugar such as Sugar in the Raw
Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean. Pour the cream into a saucepan with the vanilla bean seeds and the pod. If using extract, you’ll be putting it in later. Bring to just boiling, and remove from the heat. Let the vanilla steep in the cream for 30 minutes. While the vanilla is steeping, combine the egg yolks, granulated sugar, and the salt. When the cream is done steeping, remove the vanilla pod and squeeze out any liquids from the pod. This will add more flavor. Pour a small amount of the hot cream into the egg yolks and in a small steady stream while stirring, combine the rest of the cream with the egg yolk mixture. Bubbles will form on the top. Bang the bowl to get rid of as many bubbles as possible. Ladle the mixture into 6 ramekins being careful not to transfer any bubbles.
Place the ramekins in a 10 inch skillet. Fill the skillet with water to ½” from the tops of the custard cups. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 25-35 minutes. The custards are done when shaken, they jiggle like loose jello.
Remove the cups from the skillet, cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the pudding, and refrigerate for 3 hours, or until chilled. Place 1 tsp of sugar on top of each dish, enough to evenly cover the top. Use your husband’s blow torch, and hold the point of the flame to the sugar. Keep the flame moving to melt the sugar without burning. If you don’t have a torch, use this dessert as an excuse to buy one for your man. Make sure you buy the Bernzomatic TS4000. This torch is designed to be turned upside down and still flame properly. It burns mapp gas which burns very hot and will melt the sugar quickly.
The Lighter Side of Crème Brulée
adapted from The South Beach Diet Cookbook
- ¾ cup whole milk
- ¾ cup half & half
- 2 eggs beaten
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
- 4 tsp turbinado sugar for caramelizing on the top
In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, half & half, eggs, sugar and vanilla paste until well blended. Pour into four 6 ounce custard cups or ramekins and place in a 10 inch skillet. Fill the skillet with water to ½” from the tops of the custard cups. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove the cups from the skillet, cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the pudding, and refrigerate for 3 hours, or until chilled. Place 1 tsp of sugar on top of each dish, enough to evenly cover the top. Use your husband’s blow torch, and hold the point of the flame to the sugar. Keep the flame moving to melt the sugar without burning. If you don’t have a torch, use this dessert as an excuse to buy one for your man (not meant as a sexist comment rather a comment on the state of our society. Certainly women have the right to own a torch if they want one and this is a good excuse to get one).