I fall firmly into the “English” camp when it comes to Crème Brulée. A speciality of the kitchens at Trinity College, Cambridge, it’s traditionally made with vanilla.
Speaking of tradition, the Tudors used to flavour custards with bay. So, putting the two thoughts together, I came up with this.
I’ve also done the maths so that it’s easy to make as many or as few as you need: 1 egg yolk + 100ml (3.3 fl.oz )cream + 12 ½ (0.4 oz) grams of caster sugar = one serving.
This version is enough for six.
6 egg yolks
600ml (20 fl.oz) double cream
75g (2½ oz) caster sugar
4 fresh bay leaves *
golden caster sugar for the caramel
Whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar in a bowl until they’re pale and creamy and set aside.
Gently heat the cream with the bay leaves in a heavy-based saucepan, stirring all the time, until it’s just on the simmer. Don’t let it boil.
Pour the hot cream onto the creamed egg yolks, stirring until they’re well incorporated.
Place the cream and egg mixture into a bain marie, the bay still in it, and stir it over the steam until it has thickened and cooked: you want it smooth and silky, so that it will nicely coat a spoon. (Don’t let the bowl touch the water, because the mixture will curdle.)
Pour the mixture into individual ramekins, and set them aside to cool. Then put them into the fridge to set. This will take about 3 hours.
When you’re ready to serve, sprinkle a layer of golden caster sugar onto each custard, and caramelise it with a blow torch. You can also do this under an over-head grill.
Serve at once.
* TIP: If you want to make the classic version of this dish, substitute the bay leaves for a vanilla pod. And for that extra vanilla kick, make sure you scrape out the seeds too. You’ll need to remove the pod when you pour out the mixture, but the tiny seeds will remain.