I’ve got a lovely little surprise for you today. It’s a Creme Brûlée For Two recipe — part of the mouth-watering Dessert for Two series. And it’s just in time for another mid-pandemic New Year’s Eve, where it’s safest and most compassionate to celebrate at home. Extra bonus: It’s very doable — just 4 ingredients!
The only hard part is patience, because these are best when they’ve cooled for 8 hours or more. So you could make the recipe first thing in the morning on New Year’s Eve, and then let them cool all day. As a last step, you’ll brown the topping just before you serve them that night. Perfect.
One thing I love so much about the Dessert for Two series is that it’s all about experiencing the decadence in the moment, enjoyed with someone else — a friend, a child, a significant other, a parent, or anyone really. And for me, this recipe is about the sheer delight of the sweet custard hidden beneath the hard brûlée-d sugar top. It’s so much fun to crack into it, especially if you’re in good company.
Creme Brûlée can be intimidating, but rest assured it’s actually very easy to make. It only takes four ingredients — egg yolks, sugar, cream, and vanilla. The prep is nothing more than heating cream and adding it to lightly whisked egg yolks and sugar, and adding some vanilla.
The custards bake for about an hour at a very low temperature. That ensures that the custards bake evenly and don’t curdle so the texture is luxuriously silky and smooth. That’s it! So simple. My point is: it’s really difficult to mess this recipe up. The hardest part is waiting, waiting, waiting.
There are a few ways ways to brûlée the top. I prefer the simplest method of sprinkling sugar on top and using a torch. I’ve also used my oven broiler. I know most people don’t have a torch available, so a broiler is great alternative — there are directions in the notes below for that method. The third method is to caramelize sugar in a pan and pour a very thin, glasslike layer of the caramel on top of the chilled custards. (But it’s way too much hassle in my opinion.)
Whatever you do, enjoy each spoonful. Lick the dish clean. Rejoice in the deliciousness! And you may want to double this recipe so you have a few extras for the next day. (You’ll want them.)
Creme Brûlée for Two Recipe
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar, plus 2 teaspoons (for top)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or the seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped)
1. Preheat oven to 200°F. Have ready two 6-ounce ramekins or custard cups.
2. Place egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar in a 2-4 cup glass measuring cup with a spout. Lightly whisk just until combined.
3. In a small saucepan, heat cream just until boiling. Remove from heat and slowly drizzle a little of the hot cream into the egg and sugar mixture while gently whisking. Add the rest of the cream in a slow, steady stream, plus the vanilla extract (or seeds). Stir just until combined being careful not to aerate the mixture.
4. Divide the custard mixture between the two ramekins. Pouring the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve will help remove any lumps of eggs or bubbles, but isn’t completely necessary.
5. Set the ramekins in a glass baking pan, if desired. (This helps in transferring the custards into and out of the oven, but isn’t mandatory either.) Bake for 50-70 minutes or until the custards are set, but slightly wobbly in the center when gently tapped. Shallower ramekins will cook more quickly, closer to the 50 minute mark. And deeper ones will take closer to 70 minutes. Remove and let cool completely. Press plastic wrap (film) against the top of the custards and chill for at least 3-4 hours, preferably 8 hours or overnight.
6. For sugar topping – remove chilled custards from the fridge and evenly sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over the top of each custard. Using a culinary torch, caramelize the sugar until deep amber. (Be careful — the tops of the ramekin get super hot!) Serve immediately. To eat, crack the hard top with a spoon and dig in!
– For a lighter custard, substitute 1/4 cup of the heavy cream for whole milk or use 1/2 cup whipping cream instead of heavy cream.
– To change up the flavor, you can substitute another extract or add liqueur in place of or in addition to the vanilla extract. Two to three teaspoons of liqueur or 1/2 teaspoon extract is perfect.
– To caramelize the topping with a broiler, place the ramekins in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to help keep the top from melting too much. Preheat oven broiler to high. Adjust oven rack so it is about 4-5 inches from the broiler. Place the ramekins on the rack and broil until caramelized. Depending on your oven, it may take as little as 60 seconds or a bit longer. Carefully remove from oven and serve immediately.
P.S. — Tiramisu for two.
Credits: Photos and recipe by Lindsey Rose Johnson for Design Mom.