The hardest thing about making creme brulee is telling your parents you want to be a pastry chef. That is not entirely true. The hardest thing is deciding when the creme brulee is done. It can be more than a little intimidating to cross your fingers and take an eggy dessert out of the oven that in all reality, doesn’t appear to be fully cooked. But once you have successfully made this delightful dessert once, you will be well on your way to many more swoon-worthy custards.
For the Creme Brulee:
1 1/2 C. heavy cream
1 1/2 C. whole milk
*of course, you can just use 3 C. cream or half and half, but don’t use only milk*
3 bags Matcha Green Tea, or other herbal tea that you like (Darjeeling or Earl Grey would be nice). You can definitely use matcha powder if you have it on hand. I would use about 1 Tbsp.
1/2 a vanilla bean, split and scraped (save the scrapings)
5 egg yolks
3/4 C. sugar
Preheat the oven to 325. Pour the milk and cream into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over medium, stirring often, until steaming. Add the tea bags and the vanilla bean and its scrapings. Stir, turn off the heat, and cover for 10 minutes to steep. In the meantime, whisk your egg yolks together in a medium bowl with your sugar until the mixture becomes pale yellow. Set aside.
Return to the milk-tea. Remove the tea bags, squeezing any excess out of them. Turn the burner back on to medium heat and heat the mixture again, stirring regularly, until steaming and bubbling a little around the edges. In the meantime, start a kettle of water on the stove.
Temper the egg and sugar mixture with the milk and cream, meaning add 1/2 a cup of the hot liquid to the eggs and whisk vigorously. This will ease the eggs gently into the idea of getting warm, without pouring everything together at once and making a green tea scramble. Now, slowly pour the warmed egg mixture into the rest of the warm cream on the stove and whisk up a storm for about 15 seconds. This way, you are certain that everything is combined thoroughly and that the eggs don’t have any time to sit over a hot spot and get overcooked. Once you have whisked thoroughly, turn off the heat.
Now, discard the vanilla bean and divide the custard between 8 small or 6 medium ramekins. Small bowls will work, too. I pour the mixture into a large measuring cup with a spout to make this easier. Place them into a deep baking dish (or 2 baking dishes, if necessary), and fill the dish halfway up the sides with the boiling water from the kettle. This will effectively insulate the creme brulees, preventing them from getting too much direct heat from the oven.
Bake at 325 for 30 minutes to begin with. You will have to check on them regularly (at least every 10 minutes) after the initial 30 minutes. What you are looking for is a jiggly center, but with a top layer that has somewhat solidified. Think about Jell-O – it still jiggles, but it is no longer a liquid. They can take up to an hour, but if you have any doubts, just bite the bullet and pull them out of the oven. In this case, better undercooked than over. They will sit in the hot water for another 30 minutes on the counter and I am confident they will be perfectly safe to eat by the time they cool.
Once the ramekins are cool enough to handle, pull them out of the water and place them into the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours. If you are storing them for more than 12 hours, cover tightly with plastic wrap. They will last up to a week.
When you are ready to serve, sprinkle the custards with course sugar (organic sugar works just fine) and place right under a broiler on the tip top rack for 1-3 minutes with the oven door open. Watch them carefully, you want the sugar to caramelize, not the eggs to cook to a hard set. They won’t brown all over like they would if you had a torch (maybe you do!), but they will still bubble and caramelize enough to give you that great brulee flavor. The one down side is that this process will re-warm the custard (if you call that a down side). If you prefer the dish very cold, just return to the fridge for 30 minutes.