Just a few short years ago, crème brûlée was found only in four-star French restaurants. Now almost everybody makes one using a favorite and often exotic flavoring. This ice-cold custard with the crackling sugar top is the most popular dessert at my restaurant. So much so that I sometimes think it is the only dessert I should make. Perhaps it is the ease of preparation that makes me think so!
12 large egg yolks, beaten
1 cup granulated sugar
4 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom (see Note)
1 cup light brown sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. In a large heat-proof mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar.
3. Place the cream in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Warm just until little bubbles form around the edge. Remove from the heat and, whisking constantly, pour into the egg and sugar mixture. Add the cardamom and continue whisking until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is well combined.
4. Pour the mixture through a very fine sieve into 6 crème brûlée dishes, filling them only half full. Place the dishes into a shallow baking dish large enough to hold them without crowding. Place the dish on the middle rack of oven. Working quickly to preserve the heat, finish filling the dishes with the custard mixture, making sure that it comes right to the top of each dish. Then carefully fill the baking dish with very hot tap water so it comes halfway up the sides of the filled dishes. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the custard is set in the center.
5. Remove the custards to a wire rack to cool. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or until ready to use.
6. When ready to serve, preheat the broiler.
7. Pass the brown sugar through a fine sieve to eliminate all lumps. Generously sprinkle the top of each chilled custard with an equal portion of the brown sugar, taking care to cover all of the custard, so that it gives an even finish. Place the chilled crème brûlée dishes under the preheated broiler and broil for about 2 minutes, or until the tops are crackling brown. Remove from the broiler and serve immediately.
When I make this dish, I often grind the cardamom in a coffee grinder so that it picks up just a hint of coffee (in my kitchen, usually espresso) flavor.
Royal Tokaji Red
This quite sweet but well-balanced Tokaji is a stunning companion to this lightly spiced and very rich dessert.
Indian Flavors, French Passion
By Raji Jallepalli with Judith Choate
HarperCollins Publishers, March 2000
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created April 2000
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