Crème Brûlée (from Ripailles, Reynaud 2008)
There are few things as satisfying as cracking into a crème brûlée; the sharp thwack with the back of the spoon shattering the dark ice to reveal a deep ocean of smooth vanilla custard below. But one thing as satisfying as that must be eating it.
No self-respecting Briton can resist custard. Oozing thickly down a sticky toffee pudding, layered under a rice pudding, bread and butter pudding drowning in smooth warm vanilla (we are keen on the word “pudding” too). If you take our citizenship exam and are asked what we put on our spotted dick, first of all try not to laugh, and then if the word “cream” even enters your head (understandably, if you’re still laughing at spotted dick), you really need to consider how you might find a lifestyle more suited to you elsewhere.
I remember my first experience of the real thing. I was in Le Procope in Paris some years ago, intent on indulging myself with some of the most decadent dishes the city has to offer. Having fully appreciated the foie gras with toasted panettone and magret de canard a l’orange, I plumped for crème brûlée on the basis that it seemed to be the most liquid of the desserts on offer, and I was really struggling to find room for further solids. It was like being transported to heaven on a light custardy cloud. Briefly, time stops, and you are suspended in that moment of pure pleasure.
I found it was much easier to make than I thought it would be, although it wasn’t quite to Le Procope standards. The recipe asked me to heap way too much sugar on top, so I recommend you just sprinkle. But it was set beautifully (thanks to the vital bain-marie), velvety, and rich with vanilla, and the important satisfying thwack.
4 egg yolks / 75g caster sugar / ½ vanilla pod / 500ml pouring cream or double cream / sprinkle of soft brown sugar / 4 ramekins
Whisk yolks & caster sugar until thick / Heat cream, add insides of vanilla pod & pod / Take off heat / Mix sugar stuff & cream stuff together / Remove pod / Pour into ramekins / Put ramekins in bain-marie – water 2/3rds of roasting tin / 160°C 30 mins / Cool / Scatter brown sugar / Grill or blowtorch