Creme Brulee in French means “burned cream”. As much as I love rich foods, the thought of eating heavy cream and egg yolks (more fat) is too much even for me. However, loving everything of the brulee/flan/pudding family I wanted to find a way to still enjoy this dessert. The cream brulee under the crackling sugar coating can still be enjoyed but with a lighter touch. If you can find Tahitian vanilla, use it by all means for an unforgettable flavor. It can be found on the internet. If not, look for Madagascar vanilla to get the most flavor.
I have seen recipes that talk about creme brulee as being a mystical, magical recipe to follow. I'm not sure what they are talking about. This is so easy, I didn't even provide how to photos. Basically you whisk everything together, put in in a waterbath, bake and chill. However, my post "Milk Chocolate Creme Brulee" post has photos to guide you should you wish.
If you don't have a hand held torch with which to finish it, place the ramekins on a foil lined tray to make clean up easier. Sugar the cold creme brulee and place the tray on the top rung of the oven set to broil. Leave the door open and watch it carefully. In a few seconds the sugar will bubble and brown. Turn the tray if necessary to even out the browning. In a few more seconds, it will burn so pull it at the first sign of browning. It should be melted, colored and bubbling at this point and after sitting for a few minutes turn into a glassy, hard surface that when hit with a spoon should crack. That's the fun of creme brulee.
Setting the ramekins in a pan and partially filling it with hot water will slow down the cooking of the egg based creme brulee so they won't curdle.
i used to joke that I was going to write a book named "326 Creme Brulee and 235 Bread Puddings" because both of these are so easy to make that almost every restaurant has some version of them.
Lightened Creme Brulee
5 egg yolks
⅓ cup sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups half and half
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Put five 5 ounce oven proof ramekins in a 9x13 inch pan. Set aside.
Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla by hand until they lighten in color but do not aerate them too much. You just want to combine them well, otherwise the baked creme brulee will have air bubbles in it. In the meantime heat the half and half until very hot, but not boiling. While whisking constantly, slowly pour in the hot half and half. Whisk just until mixed. At this point strain the mixture through a fine sieve to make sure it is perfectly smooth.
Divide the mixture among the ramekins in the 9x13 inch pan. Carefully pour hot water half way up the ramekins but do not let them float in the water. Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and put it in the oven. (This is strictly for safety and to make it easier to handle the water filled pan in and out of the oven.) Bake for 30 to 40 minutes depending upon how deep the creme brulee is or until the centers just jiggle a little when lightly shaken. Remove from the oven and let sit in the water bath at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Carefully lift each ramekin out of the water and dry the bottom. Refrigerate for 6 to 7 hours or up to 3 days.
Sprinkle about 2 to 3 teaspoons of sugar evenly over the top of each brulee. The amount depends upon the width of the container. Pick up the ramekins and shake them gently to even out the sugar. Using a hand held torch about six inches above the sugar, go back and forth to brown the sugar. Try to brown the center part first and then go around the edges. This keeps the edges from burning. Wait 5 to 10 minutes before serving for the sugar to cool. See an alternative method of browning above if you don't have a torch.
Once they are cooled, served immediately. Do not store them in the refrigerator after the sugar has been bruleed as it will melt.