Creme Bru-le-le-le-le-le

I know this entry has a lot of words. It’s my first one. I’m working on it. 

It’s tough being single.

It’s especially tough being single in your late 20’s when all you friends have significant others and most Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday/Friday/Saturday/Sunday nights are spent alone, while you keep track of the other peoples’ social lives through various social network outlets.

Usually, I don’t mind a quiet night in. There’s always a book that can be read, or a TV show that I can catch up on. But for the three months I was by myself in Melbourne, Australia–I got pretty restless. There are only so many tourist spots and coffee shops one person can explore alone. I eventually found something that killed time: I started a really wordy blog.

But all the recipes I tried resulted in days worth of food; and sometimes leftovers would go unfinished because I ended up eating out 4 nights in a row, or I wanted to attempt another recipe. I probably spent more money buying unused ingredients than used ones (which can pile up in Australia). So now that I’ve come back in Los Angeles, added 1 hour commutes to work (as in 1 hour there, 1 hour back), and work out more frequently–when I settle back home, all I want to do is make something painless that will still satisfy my fleeting of-the-moment cravings.

So here begins my attempt to find/alter/create recipes suitable for a single person (or even a +1 if you’re trying to impress a guest).

I’ve never really considered myself a dessert person, and when it comes to solo cooking, baking desserts can be overwhelming. Typically, you’ll find cake recipes meant for 8-10 people; and as much as I love a decadent slice of cake once in a while, it’s really not worth my time. But if you really think abut it, baking is probably the easiest thing to conquer when you’re eating for one. Success in baking is solely based on getting proportions right. Personally, I think baking is closer to science than actual cooking.

Two weeks ago, I found these adorable ramekins at a local Japanese discount store. At $1.50 a piece, (and not made in China) I grabbed three and planned on going back for three more. But once I got home and really stared at my new beauties, I was stumped as to what I would use them for. I had to google for inspiration (people do this right?) and stumbled across a couple of Creme Brûlée recipes. I did some comparisons and eventually settled on the proportions below. It yields a more solid creme brûlée and works great if you only have a toaster oven to bake with…because why would you want to waste energy warming up your massive oven for a single portion of dessert?

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Creme Brûlée
This recipe makes one serving. Multiply accordingly. I used a 3.5 inch ramekin that went 2 inches deep.

For every 1 egg yolk you’ll need:

  • 85mL of heavy cream (you can go up to 100mL if you like a creamier texture)
  • 0.75 Teaspoon of sugar + 1.5 Teaspoons for the sugar top
  • a splash of vanilla extract (nothing more than 1/3 of a teaspoon. But I eyeball it every single time)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven (I used a toaster oven) to 325F.
  2. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until the mixture is light and airy. The color should be a little paler than the original egg yolk color.
  3. Add the heavy cream and vanilla extract into a small pot and heat until it almost boils. 
  4. Temper the cream into the egg yolk mixture.
    The easiest way to do this is to slowly add about 1/4 of a cup of the cream into to the egg yolk mixture while slowly whisking the egg yolks. Note how I used the word “slowly” twice. The point of “tempering” is to make sure you’re not cooking your egg yolks into a grimy mush when adding a heat source (your hot cream). After successfully not messing up your eggs, you can add the rest of the cream more quickly, but still stirring the egg mixture. WARNING: DO NOT WHISK TOO MUCH. You don’t want to end up with a bunch of froth at the top of mixing bowl, this results in an ugly and overly-airy dessert.
  5. Strain the cream+eggs into ramekins (just in case you did end up cooking some egg) and let cool
  6. Boil enough water to fill a larger baking pan/tray
  7. Give your ramekins a lovely water bath by placing the ramekin in the middle of the baking tray and filling the it with the boiling water until half of the ramekin is immersed in the water. Place it in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when you test it. WARNING: DO NOT GET WATER IN THE RAMEKIN. You’ll ruin it for yourself.
    If it’s easier, place the tray in the oven first, then center the ramekin and then fill the tray with water. This will make transporting much easier.
  8. Let the ramekins cool. You can even put them in the fridge for 3-5 hours to really get them chilled.
  9. Set your oven/toaster oven to the “broil” setting and get the temperature as high as it can go (but you’ll probably want to max out at 450F). If you can, move the oven shelf the highest it can to the top of the oven, and pile some bake-safe pans to create a stool for your ramekins. You want to get the top of the custards as close as it can to the “broiling point” in the oven (a.k.a the top)
  10. Add the additional sugar evenly across the top of the custard and broil until all sugar has melted into a lovely glass like top. Let cool in fridge or eat while it’s warm. It tastes delicious either way.

Optional: if you have some heavy cream left over, pour some in a small bowl and add as much sugar to your liking. Whisk to oblivion to create your own whipped cream topping. Add a strawberry if you’re feeling fancy (or just happen to have some in the fridge)

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And just for fun: This is where the blog title comes from

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