I'm pretty sure I've never had crème brûlée up to this point, but, as most of my projects in food, this was a request from Idle Husband.
But before I knew it, I found myself trying to come up with birthday ideas and decided this had to be it. He'd forgotten all about creme brulee by that time and had stopped bringing it up at every meal. This would be the perfect surprise! And, yes, despite my annoyance, I'd track down a torch (they aren't too expensive at Home Sense and I printed a 10% off coupon. Just be sure to get butane and test it as they aren't prefilled) and even some real vanilla beans (another luxury I've refused myself to have. Too fancy! Too expensive! Too finicky!). This was a birthday treat, after all.
I assembled my ingredients and read through my recipe again, separated my eggs, measured out the cream and sugar, and... is that it? That's all? I didn't even have to lug out the KitchenAid? The entire project was too easy. Easier than a cake, actually. Maybe it's this recipe in particular, but I couldn't believe that by the time the cream had boiled, I was pretty well done.
My kitchen wasn't a disaster. I had used one bowl and a pot. The only issue I had was the bain marie but that was on account of having a too-small tea kettle, and I worried tremendously as I removed them from the oven as they seemed more wobbly than trembling in the centre as called for in the recipe.
Since creme brulee can sit in the fridge for up to three days, I made these a day in advance (without the sugar crust), and hid them in the bottom portion of the fridge (I can hide things practically in plain sight around here). They set up during this resting period, so I was no longer concerned about the wobble.
The torching is easy. Don't even worry about overdoing it. The burnt bits add a really nice caramel flavour. Just be sure to add a thin layer of sugar. I found that a thicker sugar top ruined my enjoyment of the custard (which reminds me of a very delicate vanilla pudding) since I had to crunch my way through each spoonful. A thin delicate layer gives just enough sugary crispness for texture. Also, save the vanilla bean and stick it in the sugar you're going to use to top the creme brulee. It's so delicious! I'm so sad this recipe made an uneven five ramekins for us. I want one last whole one for myself! But we shared it, even though I know we both felt the same way.
recipe from Alton Brown