It’s month six (!) of the global pandemic. When we got sent home from work in March, I had no idea that we would still be fighting the spread of Covid-19. Like everyone else I thought we’d stay at home for like 60 days and then we'd flatten the curve and go back to normal. I was so naive. I didn’t think we’d still be here.
The new normal is a meticulously planned grocery shopping list to limit the number of trips to the store. The new normal includes making sure I have a mask on me at all time. The new normal is what I call the "Zoom Mullet": sleeveless shell + cardigan on the top; workout pants + fuzzy socks on the bottom. I haven’t worn actual adult pants since March 14, 2020. In addition to missing wearing entire outfits, I really miss going out to dinner.
The Good Ole Days (pre- March 2020)
I miss the entire going out experience: Picking the restaurant because your coworker just had a fabulous meal there. Getting dressed to go out (!) Driving to the restaurant. Figuring out the parking situation, being too cheap to park close to the door. Walking however many blocks away. Grabbing a drink at the bar while we wait for the table. Pursuing the menu like I didn’t already read it online before you got there and ultimately ordering the special of the night. If we’re feeling fancy or celebrating an occasion, we’d order a crème brûlée to share and coffee and linger and talk until way too late. When the meal ends and we felt like we were going to pop from so much good food, we’d pay the bill and leave a good tip because my husband used to wait tables and that’s non-negotiable. Then we’d hold hands and wander around the city/town to window shop and people watch. I miss all of that.
But the reality is that I’m nowhere near ready to actually eat in a restaurant again, so Friday night, I decided to bring a small part of that restaurant experience to my house by making a dessert that I’d get in a restaurant. My go-to choice is always the crème brûlée. ALWAYS. The perfection of the smooth custard combined with the crunch of the burnt sugar feels sort of like grown up ice cream. After an informal instagram stories poll, my lovely followers choose the espresso flavored crème brûlée. If you want the play by play photos of the process, check out my instagram stories!
- This recipe is a small batch and makes 4 4-oz crème brûlées.
- Mise En Place. Gather and measure out all of your ingredients before you start. Making the custard goes quickly, and you don't want want to be fumbling with egg yolks halfway through the recipe. Make sure all of your things are ready to grab and go!
- While you don’t need a lot of ingredients, you need a lot of equipment. None of the equipment is expensive but make sure you have everything handy. The most important thing is that fine mesh strainer. No one wants clumpy crème brûlée.
- After the custard cools in the refrigerator, there may be a bit of condensation on the top, just dab the top with a paper towel before adding the sugar.
- About the sugar-- I used turbinado because I had some in my pantry. You can use granulated sugar, but just know that you will need less time to caramelize it.
- A kitchen torch is optional to burn the sugar. I had a mini torch from Sur La Table that immediately started leaking the butane -- which made me incredibly nervous that I was going to burn down the house. So then I panicked and I tried to use a gas grill lighter. Please note that this was the dumbest idea ever. Don’t do this. If Crème brûlée, won't be as pretty, but you will end up with a satisfying crispy top. Make sure that your sugar layer is thick enough. In my first attempt the layer of sugar was too thin causing the sugar to absorb into the custard, but not caramelize. On the second attempt, I added a bit more sugar, put the ramekins right under the broiler and they came out. Practice makes perfect.
Espresso Crème Brûlée
- 2 cups heavy cream, divided
- ½ cup cup granulated sugar
- Pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso
- splash vanilla extract
- 6 large egg yolks
- 8 teaspoons turbinado sugar
- Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 300º F
- Line a 9x9 pan with a couple of dishtowels and set the 4 ramekins in the pan, making sure that the ramekins do not touch each other. Set aside.
- Fill a tea kettle with water and bring to boil over medium heat
- Combine 1 cup heavy cream, sugar and salt in a small saucepan. Bring the cream to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Pull the saucepan with the cream off the stove and whisk in the espresso powder, until completely dissolved. Add a splash of vanilla extract, and then whisk in the remaining cup of heavy cream.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until they are uniform.
- Whisk half of the cream into the eggs yolks and mix until combined. Repeat with the remaining cream.
- Place a fine mesh strainer over a large measuring cup (or bowl with a spout) and pour the cream mixture through the strainer to make sure the cream is smooth.
- At this point, your tea kettle should be whistling! (If it’s not, check on that now.)
- Fill each ramekin with the cream mixture, leaving about ½ inch of space at the top.
- Open the oven and pull out the rack. Place the 9x9 pan in the middle of the rack. Carefully pour the hot water from the tea kettle into the 9x9 pan to create a water bath for the ramekins. The hot water should reach two thirds up the sides of the ramekins. Slide the rack back into the oven.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, but set your timer for 20 minutes. The custard should be removed from the oven when it reaches 170 to 175ºF. If your dishes are very shallow, reduce the bake time by 5-10 minutes. Don’t be afraid to use your thermometer-- the custards are going to be covered by the sugar!
- Using a pair of tongs, transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and let cool at room temperature for 2 hours. After two hours, put the ramekins in the 9x9 pan and cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
- When you’re ready to serve, sprinkle a thin layer of turbinado sugar (about a tablespoon) on the top of each custard. If you have a kitchen torch, light it up! If you don’t have a kitchen torch, place the custards on a cookie sheet. Arrange the racks in your oven to the top shelf and place the custards on the shelf -- directly under the broiler. Broil for 2-3 minutes until the sugar has melted. If you use the broiler method, return the creme brulee to the fridge for 5-10 minutes before serving.