I'm going through a stage of searching for good old fashioned and simple comfort food recipes. The classic winter staples - student pasta, slow cooked casseroles, apple pie.
It happens to be a perfect time for me to reflect on this because I've succumbed to one of those nasty colds every other person seems to be walking around with at the moment. And while I'm hardly in the mood to get up from the couch - let alone cook - I did feel motivated on the weekend to try making one of my all time favourite desserts: creme brulee.
Creme brulee is one of those things I tend to order at any given opportunity simply because I'd never made it myself and because it seemed like a difficult thing to do. There are literally dozens of variations on making the custard, on flavouring, and on how to achieve the perfect "crack" texture on top, further adding to my creme-brulee-reluctance.
After some experimentation, I managed to work out a super simple way of making the perfect, classic, vanilla creme brulee.
Basic vanilla creme brulee.
Pre-heat oven to 120c. Put 600ml cream and a split vanilla pod (or 1/2 tsp vanilla essence) into a saucepan and heat to scalding point - take it off the heat just before it boils. In a bowl, beat together (with electric hand mixer) 6 egg yolks and 1/2 cup caster sugar until pale and creamy. Pour over the hot cream mixture (take out the pod first) and keep beating for a minute. With a large metal spoon, skim off the froth from the top of the mixture and discard, then pour mix into four small/medium size ramekins. Put the ramekins into a deep sided baking dish, and pour in boiling water until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Place into oven for 40 minutes until just set - a slight wobble in the middle of the custards is good. Cool before chilling them in the fridge for a few hours. When ready to serve, evenly sprinkle 1/2 tsp caster sugar over each custard. Place under a hot grill, or use a domestic blowtorch to heat the tops until browned. It should "crack" with the back of a teaspoon when you hit it, and the custard underneath should be semi-set.