5 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups cream
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons good vanilla extract or one vanilla bean, split
sugar for brulee top
This recipe makes enough for 4-6 servings of creme brulee, depending on the size of the ramekins you wish to fill.
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. On the stovetop, heat the cream and milk together to scald -- it should get to the point where it is extremely hot to the touch, but don't let it boil. If using a vanilla bean, add the bean to the milk while it heats to infuse it with the specks of vanilla. While the cream is heating, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until well blended. If you are using vanilla extract, add it to the egg and sugar mixture. When the cream mixture is very hot, remove it from the stovetop and add it slowly to the egg mixture while whisking constantly. If the hot cream is added too quickly, it will curdle the eggs, so I add it one ladleful at a time until the egg mixture is warmed through, then add it in a slow stream. Stir in a pinch of salt.
Ladle the custard mixture into ramekins. Place the ramekins into a roasting pan and fill the pan with enough hot water to come half-way up the sides of the ramekins (this is called a bain-marie, or water bath, and the purpose is to help the custard cook more evenly, which will result in a smoother and more consistent texture.) Place the pan in the oven and bake for 35 minutes to an hour, depending on the amount of custard in each ramekin.
To determine doneness, gently shake the pan with the ramekins -- the custard should wobble just like firmly set Jell-O. Remove the ramekins and set aside and allow to cool, then cover with cling film and refrigerate. When you are ready to serve the custards, sprinkle the top of each with a couple of teaspoons of sugar. Gently tap each ramekin to coat evenly. Using a kitchen blowtorch, broil the sugar top to a deep brown, or do the same using your broiler (keep an eye on it!) Allow to cool for a few minutes after burning the sugar to allow it to set. Serve, and enjoy!