This is award-winning pastry chef Gale Gand’s recipe for her crème brulee base, a rich custard baked in a water bath. The baked custards are chilled; when you are ready for dessert, bring out the number you need, gild with caramelized sugar, and garnish as suggested or in your own style. Note that the procedure is designed so that you never have to lift the heavy water bath pan when it is filled with hot water.
- Half-and-half - 1 cup
- Heavy (whipping) cream - 1-3/4 quarts (3-1/2 pints)
- Vanilla Beans - 2
- Egg Yolks - 24
- Sugar - 1-1/2 cups
- Fine Chocolate Shavings - 2 cups
- Raspberry-Mint Salad
- Raspberries - 1 pint, divided
- Sugar - 1 teaspoon
- Mint leaves - 4, cut in fine julienne
- Coarse Sugar - 1 tablespoon coarse sugar per serving
- Chocolate Straw - 1 chocolate straw per serving
- Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 300 F. Combine the half-and-half and cream in a heavy pot. Split the vanilla beans and scrape the seeds into the cream mixture, then drop in the pods. Bring the mixture just to a boil. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Gently stir several large spoonfuls of hot cream into the egg yolks with a whisk to temper the yolks, then stir the yolks into the hot cream. Pass the mixture through a chinois or fine-meshed sieve. Ladle into shallow soup bowls and sprinkle with chocolate shavings. Place the bowls in a large baking pan with deep sides. Place the pan on the oven rack and fill half way up the sides of the bowls with boiling water, being careful not to splash water over the filled bowls. Bake until set, about 30 minutes. Turn off the oven. Open the oven door and pull the rack part way out. Lift out the bowls with hot mitts or large tongs and set aside to cool. When the water in the water bath pan has cooled, lift the pan and discard the water. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill until ready to use. The crèmes will hold for 3 days in the refrigerator.
To make the raspberry-mint salad: Combine half the raspberries and the sugar in a food processor and puree. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve, discarding the seeds. Gently combine the puree with the remaining raspberries and mint julienne.
Unwrap the desired number of desserts. Spread a tablespoon of coarse sugar over the top of each and caramelize with a small kitchen torch or under a broiler. Lightly dust the edges of the soup bowls with confectioner’s sugar. Drizzle each dessert with raspberry-mint salad and garnish with a chocolate straw.