"Amélie Poulain cultive un goût particulier pour les tous petits plaisirs. Elle aime plonger sa main au plus profond d’un sac de grain... briser la croûte des crèmes brûlées avec la pointe de la petite cuillère... et faire des ricochets sur le Canal Saint-Martin..."
One of my favorite movies happens to be Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain. It's a charming movie with an adorable love story, plenty of humor, witty dialogue, wonderful little details sprinkled throughout, beautiful background colors, a lovely cast (with the delightful Audrey Tautou starring as Amélie), and an enchanting music score.
[Photo Credit: Top right and bottom left images taken from the movie Amélie]
So, why am I singing praises about this film on a baking blog? Well, a memorable thing about Amélie is that Amélie Poulain likes cracking the caramelized sugar crust on the top of crème brûlée with the back of a tiny spoon. Breaking into the top of crème brûlée really is wonderful, from the sound of the cracking to the textural contrast between the rigid sugar shell and the luscious custard underneath.
There are also two more super reasons for making crème brûlée. One, it's simple and only requires a few ingredients. And two, you get to play with fire: torching the sugar is the best part! So next time, instead of going out and ordering crème brûlée at a restaurant, try your hand at making it from scratch. Oh, and if you haven't seen Amélie yet, definitely rent a copy sometime as well :D.
adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp sugar (for the crème brûlée tops)
Preheat oven to 200ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place six oven-safe bowls or ramekins (each should be able to hold 3/4 cups of liquid) on top. In a bowl, mix the egg yolks with the 1/3 cup sugar and the vanilla extract. Pour the milk and cream in a saucepan and set on the stove over medium heat. Once boiling, remove from heat.
While whisking the egg/sugar mixture, slowly pour in about 1/4 of the hot milk and cream mixture to temper the eggs (you're warming them up so they don't curdle when the rest of the hot liquid is poured in). Continue whisking as you pour in the rest of the milk and cream. Rap your bowl against the counter to get rid of some of the bubbles. Now evenly strain the mixture into your six ramekins.
Bake the custards for 50-60 minutes, or until the centers are set (they should no longer wobble when the baking tray is moved). Remove the custards from the baking sheet onto a cooling rack. Let them cool to room temperature. Then, cover the tops of the baking dishes with plastic wrap and place them all in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours (I like to make them the night before and chill them overnight).
When ready to serve, remove the custards from the refrigerator. Evenly coat the top of each custard with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Now torch the sugar until it browns and bubbles. (Alternatively, the crème brûlées could be broiled in the oven at a high heat for a very short time, but they must be watched very carefully because sugar burns very quickly and easily.) Once the tops are carmelized, eat immediately.