Nothing like that first crack
Crème brûlée is a classic baked custard that features a trademark layer of bruleed sugar on the top. Tap your spoon against the hard shell, and it audibly cracks, giving way to the smooth, rich custard in the center. To learn how to make Crème Brûlée, click through this slideshow.
Prepare the egg yolk mixture
Begin by whisking the egg yolks with half the sugar until they are a little foamy and much lighter in color. As you add the sugar to the yolks, be sure to start whisking right away to avoid "burning" the egg yolks (this is caused by the sugar absorbing too much of the liquid from the yolks all at once), which will cause lumps.
Steep the flavor and cream
Crème brûlée is a very simple dessert, and it usually relies on the flavor of herbs, zest, or spices to give it subtle flavoring. Bring the cream to a boil with the flavoring that you wish to impart, then allow it to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the solids and proceed.
Prepare the pan: ramekins and water
Place your ramekins on top of the towel, leaving a little space between each one for even circulation of heat. pour steaming hot water into the pan so it levels 2/3rds up the edge of the ramekins. The water in the pan helps steam the custards as they cook gently and evenly, away from the direct heat of the ovens.
Temper egg mixture
After sitting for a while, the cream will still be hot. To be sure you prevent cooking your eggs when you add the two mixtures together, temper the eggs with the cream mixture gradually, whisking thoroughly as you go.
Strain the egg and cream mixture
Crème brûlée is a velvety, creamy custard. Ensure that there are no bits of cream skin or egg in the custard by straining it into a container with a pouring spout.
Clean the edges and surface
Use a corner of a paper towel to clean any splatter on the edges of the ramekins (this will prevent unsightly custard from clinging) and blot the surface of the liquid to remove any bubbles and make it smooth.
Seal in steam
Cover the top of the pan completely with foil and seal the edges to steam the custards.
Jiggly when cooked
Carefully rotate the pan halfway through baking, avoiding splashing inside the pan. Carefully remove the foil after about 20 minutes to check the custards, they should jiggle in the center but not puff. Replace the foil and check them every five minutes until they jiggle in the center and hold a bit firmer at the edges. Remove them from the hot water immediately to stop the cooking.
Clean the edges
Run your finger along the edge to clean off any sugar that stuck to the sides of the ramekin. This will ensure a clean appearance.
Light your torch away from the custard, then slowly bring the flame closer to the surface. When you see the sugar begin to melt, stop.
Circle with the torch
Once you've found the distance for melting, rapidly circle the outer edges with the flame, taking care to just melt the sugar at first without burning it. This will prevent patches of granulated sugar from showing up under the shell.
Burn baby burn
Once the outer sugar is melted, begin to bring the flame closer to the inside. You will notice that the surface will be way more prone to smoking and turning dark brown.
Once you bring the torch into the center, the surface will smoke and even catch fire. Don't panic, this is supposed to happen. You're putting the brûlée in crème brûlée.
Finish the crème brûlée by lightly applying the torch to any spots that you want to give more color.