Dish of the Week: Crème Brûlée

Sometimes it's okay to play with fire.
Sometimes it's okay to play with fire.

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we're moving on to a classic dessert: crème brûlée.

Also known as burnt cream or crema catalana, creme brulee is a torched egg custard. With a sweet toffee caramelized top that you crack through to reach the rich and completely creamy center, it's no wonder this dessert is popular worldwide.

Though earlier French versions may have existed where the custard was topped with a separately prepared caramel, the dish is generally believed to have originated in England (Cambridge's Trinity College claims to be the true birthplace of the burnt cream). That is where the contemporary method of caramelizing the sugar directly on top of the custard was introduced. Spain also lays claim to the creation of the dessert, where the dish known as crema catalana dates back to medieval times.

Wherever it was conceived, we're sure everyone would agree that they're happy the silky, decadent dessert is here now.

This recipe, from food science guru Alton Brown, provides a few simple steps to help you achieve the perfectly creamy and crisp crème brulee.

Creme Brulee

Ingredients yields 6 servings 1 quart heavy cream 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped 1 cup vanilla sugar, divided (store bought, make your own, or just use regular sugar) http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/vanilla-sugar-recipe.html 6 large egg yolks 2 quarts hot water Optional suggestion: a pinch of salt Special equipment: ramekins, gas torch

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks (and, if using, the pinch of salt) until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add the cream, a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the custard is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

Remove the creme brulee from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup vanilla sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.


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