Crème brûlée always gives an impression of being a sophisticated dessert, not least because of all the accents required. It is actually a relatively quick and easy dessert that can be made ahead and finished off just before serving, making it perfect for the party season.
A creamy custardy base is topped with a crunchy caramel layer and the flavouring is typically vanilla. The tarter lemon flavour of these takes the edge off the sweetness and makes a refreshing change.
The main danger with making a crème brûlée is in overheating the eggs, causing them to scramble. The cream is heated in the first stage of this recipe and poured onto the egg yolks so as long as you pour slowly and whisk continuously there should be no danger of the eggs scrambling. The little pots of custard then bake in the oven. As long as you remember to put the pots into a deep tin with enough water to reach about three quarters of the way up the sides of the dishes, and keep the oven at the right temperature, there should be no problem.
I was a little concerned while mine were in the oven as a couple of them started to develop large air bubbles and brown in places. The bubbles will deflate when the crèmes brûlées cool and the browning is not a problem either as the caramelised sugar will cover it.
The final stage, caramelising the sugar, doesn’t require a blowtorch. Although it would be a good excuse to get one! Just sprinkle over the sugar and put them under the grill for a few minutes, until the sugar is molten and bubbling. It’s amazing how quickly the caramel hardens, although they will need a few minutes to cool.
This recipe makes four.
3 egg yolks
Zest of two lemons
25g caster sugar
300ml double cream
About four teaspoons of sugar to top
Set the oven to 170ºC.
Beat the egg yolks, lemon zest and sugar together.
Put the cream into a pan and bring to the boil.
Pour the cream onto the egg mixture, whisking continuously.
Pour into four ramekin dishes. Set in a deep roasting tin and pour hot water into the pan so that it reaches about three quarters of the way up the side of the ramekins.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the custard is just set. Leave to cool and then keep in the fridge until ready to caramelise the tops.
The pots need a generous layer of sugar for the caramelisation. I tried icing sugar, demerara sugar and soft brown sugar and they all give a good caramel layer.
Preheat the grill to high, or using a blowtorch, heat the sugar until it is dark and bubbling.
They might only look tiny but these desserts are very rich!