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I would like to cook creme brulee and I have been told that it’s best to use a bain marie? What is the best method to use when cooking it?

Rob from London

Creme brulee is a custard, which means the combination of eggs and cream heated to 180 degrees. A perfect custard is voluptuous and coats the inside of the mouth with a creaminess that cream without eggs just does not have. How to achieve custard nirvana? The custard cannot be allowed to boil, because if it does, the creaminess is lost as the egg coagulates and separates, resulting in a watery custard. A hot water bath (which can never be more than the temperature of boiling water — 212 degrees) moderates the oven heat so that the custards do not over cook.

The best way to use a bain marie is to bring a pot of water to a boil in a kettle. (Note that it is important to use hot water. If the water is not hot, the timing of baking the custards will be off, because then the water needs to come up to a boil in the oven.) Place the ramekin (custard cups) in a sheet pan or cake pan or roasting pan of the same depth, about two inches. Fill the ramekins with the unbaked custard batter. Place the pan in a 300-degree oven. Fill the sheet pan with the hot water from the kettle. Try not to splash any water into the custards. Bake the custards for about 40 minutes. They will still jiggle like Jello when they are removed from the oven; custard is firm when it is cold. Chill completely.

Creme Brulee

  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar

Warm the halt-and-half and cream with the vanilla bean, but do not boil. Whip the eggs, salt, and sugar until pale and thick. Slowly pour the hot cream into the eggs, whisking constantly. Strain. Ladle the custard batter into 10 6-ounce ramekins. Bake at 300 degrees (do not use a convection oven setting) for 40 minutes. Chill thoroughly.

Sprinkle sugar on top of the custard and use a torch to caramelize the sugar.