The de rigueur bistro dessert, this simple cream-and-egg pudding is made sublime by the interplay of a warm, crunchy caramelized crust that contrasts with the creamy, cool custard below. You can serve the crème minus the brittle topping, either still warm from the oven or chilled, but it’s traditional to apply a flame to the surface to achieve the crisp top.
World Food: Paris: Heritage Recipes for Classic Home Cooking by James Oseland is now available.
- 6 egg yolks
- 1⁄4 cup sugar, plus 3 tablespoons for the topping
- 2 cups heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 300°F. Have ready six 1⁄2-cup ramekins and a baking pan that is at least as deep as the ramekins and is large enough to accommodate them without crowding.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the sugar dissolves. In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant spatula to ensure it is not sticking to the pan bottom, until small bubbles appear along the edge of the liquid, about 3 minutes. Remove the cream from the heat. While whisking continuously, gradually add the hot cream in a thin stream to the egg yolks until fully blended.
- Strain the cream–egg yolk mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a quart-size liquid measuring cup or a pitcher (to make filling the ramekins easier), then divide it evenly among the ramekins. Place the ramekins in the baking pan and add water to the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Carefully transfer the baking pan to the oven and bake until the custards are set at the edges and quiver slightly in the center when the ramekins are gently nudged, 45 to 50 minutes. To test, insert a small spoon into the center of a ramekin; the custard should be thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Draw your finger through the sauce on the back of the spoon; the track should remain clear. If not, cook for a bit longer.
- Remove the baking pan from the oven, then carefully transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Cover each ramekin with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or, preferably, overnight (or up to 2 days).
- Just before serving, evenly sprinkle 11⁄2 teaspoons of the sugar over the top of a custard, rotating the custard as you sprinkle to ensure even distribution. Repeat with the remaining sugar and custards. Holding the flame of a kitchen torch about 2 inches above the custard, move the flame over the surface in a circular motion. The sugar will melt and bead, then solidify into a crust. Continue to heat the surface until it has turned a caramel color, 1 to 2 minutes longer. (Keep in mind that the darker the crust gets, the more bitter it will taste.) Repeat with the remaining custards, then serve at once.
Reprinted with permission from World Food: Paris: Heritage Recipes for Classic Home Cooking by James Oseland, copyright © 2021. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.