A few notes: First, the custard should be made well in advance, preferably a day in advance. Secondly, the shape of the crème brûlée dish will dictate the amount of sugar on top as well as how long it is baked. A low flat dish, like we used here, will bake in less time than a taller, squat dish or ramekin. Regardless of the shape, the brûlée dishes should hold 6 ounces in volume each (3/4 cup).
3 medium egg yolks or 2 extra large egg yolks (if using large eggs, use your judgement and use 2 or 3 depending on how large they are)
1/4cup granulated sugar plus 2-3 tablespoons for topping
Fresh strawberries, for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and place a teapot full of water on to boil.
In a small sauce pan, place cream and salt.
Split the half vanilla bean open and scrape out the seeds into the cream then toss the scraped pod in as well.
Stir vigorously and heat to hot (160 degrees F).
While the cream is heating, separate yolks and place in a medium bowl with the quarter cup of sugar and beat until the mixture turns pale in color. Use the egg whites for some other recipe.
Once the cream has reached temperature, remove from heat and remove and discard the pod.
Very slowly drizzle into the egg mixture whipping continuously while adding.
Pour the mixture between the two dishes. Pour slowly so the vanilla bean seeds stay in the bowl as you get to the bottom. Discard the seeds.
Choose a pan that both dishes will fit into side by side and has sides that are least half as tall as the crème brûlée dish. Place the filled crème brûlée dishes into that pan.
Pour the boiling hot water into the pan around the outside of the dishes until the water comes half way up the dish.
Bake in the center of the oven. Bake shallow dishes for 20-30 minutes and for deeper dishes; 25-35 minutes.
The finished custard will seem under baked but that is what we are going for. You do not want to cook it solid like a regular custard but be soft set and creamy. If you shake it a bit, the center should jiggle and the top should still be very light in color. Our 6 ounce shallow dishes baked exactly 25 minutes. Again, don’t gauge doneness by how regular custard bakes.
Remove from the water bath and cool on racks to completely cool, upwards of 2-3 hours. Cover and refrigerate overnight. If you cover before they cool, condensation will build up on the plastic wrap and drip into the custard. Also, use caution that the plastic wrap does not touch any part of the top of the custard. It will stick and pull the top off.
The day of service, sprinkle the granulated sugar over the tops of each. For the wide dish, use 1½ tablespoons of sugar each and for the narrow dish, use 1 tablespoon each.
Use a butane torch or kitchen torch on low and heat the sugar until browned. If you don’t own a torch, use your oven broiler. This will take a minute or so, so watch closely.
Let the caramelized top harden for a few minutes then serve.
With the back of a spoon, tap on the top to crack the sugar and dig in. The top should be hard and the custard soft and creamy.
We garnished ours with a fresh strawberry fan however feel free to omit and decorate with some other in-season fruit if desired.
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