I confess – I have a real thing for food. Ever since I was a little girl, food has had a language all its own, starting with my Italian grandmother’s fresh cannoli, which she made “just for me” (and my brother and our cousins) and fed to us in secret before the Sunday meal as a treat. Food is love, and – for me – sometimes in unhealthy ways.
But, oh… a good creme brulee? Please.
No, really. Please.
Some time back, The Pioneer Woman featured creme brulee on her Food Network show. My foodie friend Chris and I promised ourselves that we would make it soon, together, like perhaps even for Easter, which was going to be just our two families, so we wouldn’t have to make it for a group of 93 people as sometimes happens for big holidays. However, Easter turned out to be a lot of work for a bunch of other reasons, and by the time it rolled around, we were all completely exhausted. Nick wound up cooking Easter dinner (it was delicious) and Chris and I (and his wife, my best friend Kimmy) wound up collapsing on the couch.
But a couple of weeks ago, my Bountiful Baskets add-on included not one but two enormous vanilla beans. Oh my word. Fresh vanilla smells amazing, and really different from what comes in the little jar, even when it’s the real extract and not the fake stuff. So I decided I would make creme brulee, even if it wasn’t a special occasion, because… well, FRESH VANILLA BEAN.
Ree’s recipe for the stuff is heavy on the egg yolk, which I like – an eggy custard is so, so good. I modified it a tiny bit by adding a capful of almond extract – I just love the way the almond and vanilla come together. And I cannot even begin to tell you how amazing the cream, vanilla, and almond smelled within moments of being introduced to one another in this saucepan. Holy cannoli.
The custard really was just as simple as combining the egg yolk mixture with the cream mixture and pouring it into the ramekins. The toughest part was finding enough (mismatched) ramekins and getting the water bath just right – I discovered my oven is not completely level, which is not surprising since it’s original to the house (late 70’s), and that carefully pouring the water in the pan without splashing it into the custard while trying to take a photo is a little challenging. (Please pay no attention to the fact that apparently my oven really needs to be cleaned.)
I baked these for exactly 42 minutes – at 40 minutes they were still a little too jiggly. Then I let them cool on wire racks before popping them into the refrigerator. And when the time came to put that oh-so-delicious sugar crust on top? Perfection. Just… perfection.