This is a very easy dinner party dessert with a subtle creamy flavour. It takes a little patience to get just right. Prepare the crème brûlées up until just before the sugar goes on top and then, a little before you are ready to serve, blowtorch the sugar on top and away you go – you have a sugary glass top that should crack with a touch of a spoon. You can also make these in ten 150ml ramekins but you will need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
First, make the caramel to flavour the custard. Place the sugar in a heavy-based pan with the water and heat gently, stirring only until the sugar has dissolved. Use a wet pastry brush to brush any stray bits of sugar off the side of the pan, otherwise this sugar can cause the mixture to crystallize into a hard ball.
Once the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat to medium-high and bring it to the boil. Let this bubble away vigorously, until the caramel turns quite a dark honeycomb colour. You can swirl the pan from time to time to make sure everything is turning evenly, but do not stir it at this stage, otherwise it may crystallize into a hard lump. Once the caramel has come to the right colour, remove it from the heat and carefully add 4 tablespoons of the cream, reserving the rest of the cream for later in the recipe. Add the salt, stirring the mixture slowly with a wooden spoon until evenly blended. Stir in the butter, a couple of cubes at a time, until you have achieved a smooth caramel. Set aside to cool completely.
When the salted caramel has cooled down,
Sit the glass bowl over a large pan of hot water over a low-medium heat and heat it until the mixture starts to thicken, stirring all the time with a spatula. It should change to the consistency of single cream.
Divide this mixture between the ramekins or moulds. Place them in a large roasting tin and pour warm water into the tin, making sure none goes into the ramekins. You want the water to come three-quarters up the sides of the ramekins. This makes a bain-marie that will prevent the mixture from getting too hot and curdling in the oven.
Place the bain-marie on the middle shelf in the oven and
Remove the cooked crème brûlées from the oven and allow them to cool. Pop them into the fridge until you are ready to finish them off and serve them.
Just before you serve the brûlées, sprinkle them liberally with an even layer of the granulated sugar, making sure the top of each one is completely covered. I like to use a blowtorch for this part. Keep the blowtorch moving over the top so that the sugar does not burn and the custard underneath does not overcook. Heat the topping until it starts bubbling and turns a medium golden-brown colour.
Once you have a lovely crunchy topping on each crème brûlée, leave them to cool down completely (the sugar gets silly hot!) and then serve.
© Lorraine Pascale, 2017. Images: © Myles New, 2017.