It is my humble belief that crème brûlée is quite possibly the best dessert on the planet. Luxurious and sexy, it is perhaps the ultimate in dessert fare. I adore it. My family begs me to make it. (We practically lick the ramekins clean.) We are sad when the last one in the fridge is gone. We order it whenever it is on the menu while dining out. I have introduced many people in my life to this dessert and they inevitably come to crave it just as much as I do.
Seriously. It's pretty darn amazing.
I, typically, make the traditional vanilla-style crème brûlée, but recently began experimenting with different flavors and add-ins. This amped up version has become a favorite of mine.
The flavor notes of the amaretto combine so beautifully with the silkiness and creaminess of the custard. I am totally in love with this version. Of course, the crackling of the glass-like sugar topping brings this dessert full circle. I just couldn't imagine enjoying the custard nearly as much without it, so I beg of you not to skip that part of the recipe.
As far as dessert recipes go, crème brûlée truly is super basic ingredient-wise. You'll be using only a handful of simple ingredients - cream/milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and a pinch of salt. For this version, a little amaretto (a sweet, almond-flavored Italian liqueur) is used to enhance the dessert and to truly wow your senses.
4 cups heavy cream (a combination of 2 cups cream and 2 cups milk can be used)
1 whole vanilla bean or 1 tablespoon good-quality vanilla extract
1/4 cup Amaretto
1/2 - 1 teaspoon almond extract (optional, but adds additional flavor)
10 egg yolks
3/4 cup white sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
Additional sugar for topping custard
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Have 6 - 8 ramekins ready on a large, rimmed baking sheet. (The number of ramekins needed will depend on the exact size of the vessels.)
Cut the vanilla bean in half (if using) and scrape out the "caviar." Combine the vanilla bean caviar (or extract) with the heavy cream/milk, Amaretto and almond extract (if using) in a medium sauce pan set over medium heat. Heat just to a simmer, but do not boil.
Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and the 3/4 cup of sugar in a large mixing bowl until the mixture becomes pale yellow and thick. (This can be done with an electric mixer, but a hand whisk works just fine.)
Very slowly, drizzle the hot cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture while whisking vigorously. (Go slowly at first so not to scramble the eggs with the hot cream mixture.) Once egg mixture is tempered, continue to add in the remaining cream mixture slowly and whisk until all is well-combined.
Strain custard mixture through a fine mesh strainer into another bowl if desired. Ladle the mixture equally into ramekins.
Transfer baking sheet of ramekins to oven. Pour enough boiling water into the baking sheet to come about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes or until custard is set around the edges, but still just slightly soft and jiggly in the center. It is important that the custard does not brown.
Carefully transfer ramekins to a cooling rack. (Tongs in one hand and an oven mitt in the other works great for this step.) Once cooled, cover ramekins with plastic wrap and allow to chill in refrigerator for, at least, three hours. (Overnight is best, however.) Ramekins of custard can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 - 3 days if necessary.
When ready to serve, sprinkle on a thin layer of sugar and caramelize using a kitchen blow torch. The sugar will become bubbly and will crackle with a spoon once cooled.
NOTE: If you do not have a kitchen torch, place ramekins of cold custard into an oven set to "broil." Broil about 1 - 2 minutes - while turning and watching very closely - just until the sugar begins to brown.
You can check out my basic Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée recipe HERE.