I’ve never made crème brûlée before and I thought since Mother’s Day is on Sunday and since it was my mom’s favorite dessert, this would be a great week to try it!
I miss my mom. She has been gone for 13 years and I still think of her daily. We were lucky, my mom and I, because we had a great friendship without much of the struggle I see so many of my friends experience with their mothers and their daughters. I think it had a lot to do with me being the youngest of six, the last at home and the fact that she was an older mom. I always joke that she was too tired when I came along and I think there’s some truth to that but, really, she was just very experienced and more relaxed as a parent. We had one big fight that really rattled me for years until, just recently, I realized it was so significant because it was so rare. I know, like I said, I was very lucky. The trade off was that I lost her before I turned 30, before she could meet my girls. Well, before she could meet them on earth. They are quite sure they met Grandma Betty as “spirits in the sky” (their words) and I really have no doubt that they did. I am blessed to see her in them and can only hope to have a similar relationship with them.
I try to honor my mom on special occasions like her birthday and Mother’s Day by doing something she would like or by making one of her favorite foods. It’s a good way to remember her with my girls so they can know her better and it’s comforting to me. She taught me to really celebrate someone’s life after they are gone rather than focusing on the sadness and loss.
And so, on to thecrème brûlée! Believe me when I tell you it is worth the extra effort and equipment to make this at home unless you know a restaurant that does it justice. I can’t say I’ve tried it in many places but I have tried it in a few and they do not compare. The texture of the custard is usually on the too thick and pasty side while the texture of this is silky and delicious! And, you get to use a blowtorch… how cool is that?!
1 quart heavy cream
(1 – 2 tsp vanilla extract if you don’t have vanilla sugar. Who does?!)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Split vanilla bean open with a small, sharp knife and scrape out the pulp
Before you separate your eggs, gently place them in a bath of hot tap water to bring them to room temp. I started doing this years ago when I baked at the restaurant. You have a much better chance of keeping the yolk in tact if they aren’t cold from the refrigerator and they won’t freeze your hands. Just let them sit for 5 – 10 minutes til they warm up a bit.
Separate the eggs and place the yolk in a large mixing bowl. Save the whites for your morning omelette. This is how I separate eggs, I just break it right on to my fingers and allow the whites to fall off. If it grosses you out, feel free to do the eggshell to eggshell thing but don’t blame me if your yolk breaks.
Using your favorite wire whisk, add 1/2 cup of sugar…
and whisk briskly until the mixture lightens in color.
Remove vanilla bean from cream and skim off any “skin” (for lack of a better word at this late hour) that has formed.
Add cream, a little at a time, stirring constantly
until fully combined. Pour evenly in to 6 – 8 (depending on size) ramekins.
Place ramekins in large roasting or cake pan and fill with hot water to come halfway up the ramekins. This water bath will allow the custard to bake gently and evenly.
Bake until the custard is set but still trembling in the middle, about 40- 45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Remove from fridge @ 30 minutes before browning sugar on top. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup sugar equally between the dishes, spreading evenly on top. Using a torch (this is the best part!) melt the sugar until it begins to brown and forms a crispy top. Let rest at least 5 minutes before serving. I highly recommend fresh berries along side but they certainly are not required. Prepare to congratulate yourself on this most delicious dessert!
This was one of my mom’s favorite quotes from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet. I think it says a lot about her willingness, as a parent, to let us be ourselves. It has become one of my favorite quotes as well. Yes, I am, indeed, a very lucky daughter…
“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not too you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hands be for gladness.
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.”