I love everything about Creme Brulee (Crème Brûlée), the texture of the custard, the perfect little portions, the pleasure I get from cracking the crunchy caramel crust. Oh yeah, and also the French accent marks in the spelling.
My take on this classic French recipe is pretty simple but with a little twist. I infused the custard with fresh basil for just a hint of basil flavor. If you leave out the basil, you’ll get the traditional recipe so try that out first if you haven’t made Creme Brulee yourself.
Basil Creme Brulee Recipe
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean (1 tsp. vanilla extract)
5 egg yolks
3 tablespoons chopped basil
tiny pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar for caramel topping
Heat oven to 325°F. Parboil cream in a saucepan over medium heat (small bubbles will form on the sides of the pan). If you decide to use whole vanilla beans, split in half and scrape seeds (see picture). Stir seeds into the cream. Toss in the scraped vanilla bean in the cream as well. Add chopped basil and stir and bring mixture to a low simmer. Remove from heat and let sit for about 15-20 minutes so the flavors infuse. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar into the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Slowly add the basil/hot cream to the sugar/yolk mixture. Strain everything through a fine sieve into a pitcher or measuring cup with a spout to make the pour easier. Stir in the salt and vanilla extract (if using).
Arrange four to six small ramekins in a deep-sided baking dish. Pour custard into the ramekins. Then fill the baking dish with water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover with foil. Bake until just set, 30-45 minutes (custard should be slightly jiggly when you shake it). Important: your baking time will depend on the depth of your ramekins, baking dish and oven temperature, so make sure to start checking early! Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven and keep ramekins in the water bath until cooled down, about 30 minutes. Remove and cover individual ramekins with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.
For the caramel crust:
Sprinkle sugar evenly over each custard. Pre-heat broiler on high. Broil in oven for about 5 minutes or until sugar has browned. If you’re using a blowtorch, slowly sweep the flame back and forth about 3 inches away from the surface until the sugar melts and caramelizes into a shiny brown color. Garnish with fresh berries, or my current favorite, husk tomatoes if you can find them.
Total Time: 90 minutes (plus 3 hours refrigerated)
Yield: 4-6 servings