Try This at Home: How to Make Creme Brulee

Food Network Magazine visited Aida Mollenkamp, host of Ask Aida, at home in San Francisco to learn how to make creme brulee.

Creme Brulee is great for special occasions--it's fancy, but the vanilla bean is the only real splurge in the recipe. "Don't worry if you don't own a kitchen torch: You can just turn on the broiler, put the custards on a baking sheet and broil them for 3 to 5 minutes," Aida says.

Get the Recipe: Vanilla Creme Brulee

"I like superfine sugar because you can use it all the way through this recipe, and it gives you nice, even caramelization," Aida says.

If you have to separate many eggs for a recipe, crack them into a bowl, then just scoop out each yolk and let the whites fall back in.

Halve the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a paring knife. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F.

Bring the cream, half-and-half and vanilla seeds and pod to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer to infuse the cream with the vanilla, 10 to 15 minutes. Discard the vanilla pod. Remove the cream mixture from the heat and cool slightly. Meanwhile, bring a kettle of water to a boil.

Whisk the egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar and the salt in a large bowl until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is pale yellow and thick; it should leave a trail when you lift the whisk. Pour in the cream mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Skim off any foam or bubbles from the surface.

Arrange eight 6-ounce ramekins in a roasting pan and divide the custard evenly among them.

Pull out the oven rack slightly, place the roasting pan on it and pour enough boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the custards are just set in the center, 40 to 45 minutes. Carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath and transfer to the refrigerator. Chill, uncovered, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

About 30 minutes before serving, sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over each custard. Tilt the ramekins to evenly distribute the sugar and tap out any excess.

Holding a kitchen torch about three inches away, burn the sugar until it turns a deep amber. Refrigerate the creme brulees just until the crust hardens, 30 minutes to 1 hour, but not longer (the topping may start to soften). Serve cold.

Infuse the cream with 1/2 cup crushed coffee beans in step 2, then strain. Add 1/3 cup cocoa to the yolks in step 3.

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