Your ticket to foolproof crème brûlée: silky smooth custard flecked with vanilla bean and crowned with a thick lid of caramelized sugar. A video and recipe collaboration with Rodelle and Snixy Kitchen.
Crème brûlée may seem like the fancy-pantsiest of restaurant desserts, but it’s actually quite simple to make at home, consisting of few ingredients plus a bit of time and materials. Once you crack the burnt sugar crust and scoop up cool, creamy custard into your maw, you’ll agree that the finished product is greater than the sum of its parts.
Sarah and I put our heads together to make the most delicious, foolproof crème brûlée recipe we could along with a how-to video that shows all the steps, in collaboration with Rodelle Vanilla. Turn up the sound and enjoy!
I learned to make crème brûlée at my first restaurant job during the summer before my senior year of high school. I had managed to wrangle a position as a garde manger cook (a.k.a. glorified salad-maker) at a local restaurant in Woodland Hills (a.k.a. The Valley). In true Los Angeles fashion, Villa Piacere had an Italian name, a French chef, a Japanese sous chef, an Iranian hostess, and Latin American line cooks. The food was a delicious melding of cultures, but my favorite part of the whole restaurant was the back patio, filled with plants and strings of fairy lights that felt like a magical garden hidden within the barren hellscape that was Ventura Boulevard.
Working at Villa Piacere was not without its downsides. Most days, I left exhausted and covered in salad dressing. But I did get to learn dirty words in Spanish, and to make fresh bread, pasta, and my favorite: dessert.
One day, my chef, Serge, took a break from yelling at me long enough to show me how to make crème brûlée. He poured heavy cream into a pot and turned on the heat, remarking ponderously that his own daughter, who was close to my age, wouldn’t go near the kitchen. This fact did not surprise me, but Serge’s crème brûlée-making did. Serge dropped whole vanilla beans into the hot cream, and when I asked why he didn’t split the beans to reveal the speckles of seeds throughout the custard, he sneered that it looked cleaner this way.
That seemed like a waste to me; wasn’t the whole point of using vanilla beans to show off those glorious seeds?
Now that the only tyrannical chef I work under is the one in my own head, I always split my vanilla beans. Crème brûlée formulas are all quite similar, but we’ve balanced this one with a double dose of vanilla, a pinch of salt, and just enough egg yolks to give the custard a soft set. Canning jars can stand in for more costly ramekins, and a water bath will keep the custard from curdling and becoming grainy. When the custards have baked, they will wobble like Jell-o when you give the pan a shake. After a thorough chill, a dusting of sugar turns to a glassy crust beneath the flame of a kitchen torch. And the trick to a perfectly thick crust? Repeat the sprinkling and torching process once more.
Get the vanilla bean crème brûlée recipe here. If you give it a go, we’d love to see! Take a picture and tag us on Instagram @The_Bojon_Gourmet, @SnixyKitchen and @RodelleVanilla. And head over to Snixy Kitchen to read Sarah’s thoughts on crème brûlée.
*Many thanks to Rodelle for making this video project possible! And many thanks to Grace Green Beauty for sponsoring The Bojon Gourmet this month! Shop their site for organic, eco-conscious skincare products that are practically good enough to eat. I’ve got my eye on these gorgeous gift boxes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this space.*