I actually made a real dessert at home last night. This, surprisingly, doesn’t happen very often and crème brûlée at home is an even rarer occurrence. I have made thousands (no exaggeration) of them during my years as a Pastry Chef, but only one or two times in my own kitchen. I may be making them more often, however, because my marshmallows need egg whites which leave me with lots of yolks. What better way to use them than crème brûlée? Vanilla beans are most often used as the main flavoring in traditional crème brûlée, but anything can be used. I chose cardamom last night because, well, I love cardamom and thought it would add a nice flavor.
Cardamom Crème Brûlée
(makes four servings)
3 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons whole green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
Heat the cream and cardamom in a saucepan until almost boiling. Remove from heat. In a separate bowl whisk the yolks and sugar together. Gradually whisk in the hot cream mixture – this is called tempering. Strain after all the cream has been added and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the water bath: Put the individual crème brûlée dishes into a pan large and deep enough to hold them. Fill the dishes with the warm crème brûlée mixture. Now, fill the pan carefully with water until it reaches almost all the way up the sides of the dishes. Carefully put the pan in the oven, cover with a clean baking sheet, and bake until just fully cooked. Over baking will cause the crème brûlée to separate. Baking should take about 20 minutes, but give a dish a gentle tap to check – if it doesn’t look liquid in the center it is done. Remove from the oven and chill for several hours before serving.
To caramelize the top, sprinkle sugar evenly over the top of the chilled custards. If you have a blowtorch, use it. If not, use a broiler. Either way, hold the crème brûlées several inches from the heat source until the sugar starts to caramelize and turn golden. Turn off the heat, let the sugar harden briefly and serve.