Sous Vide Crème Brûlée
While sous vide is not the answer for most baked desserts, it most definitely is when it comes to custard. Conventional custard recipes require care and attention with temperature-sensitive steps like tempering eggs with the hot dairy to avoid curdling and arranging a water bath in the oven. The precise temperature control of sous vide cooking makes custardy desserts like crème brûlée easier to execute. We whisked the base together, portioned it into Mason jars, and circulated for one hour. It was that easy. Once the custards finished cooking, we chilled them before the finale of a torched sugar topping. We found that crunchy turbinado sugar made for a satisfyingly crackly crust. A vanilla bean gives the crème brûlée the deepest flavor, but 1 teaspoon (5 grams) vanilla extract can be substituted. For the caramelized sugar crust, we recommend turbinado or Demerara sugar; regular granulated sugar will work, but use only 1 scant teaspoon (4 grams) for each Mason jar portion. You will need four 8-ounce widemouthed Mason jars and a kitchen torch for this recipe. Be careful not to overtighten the jars before placing them in the water bath; it can cause the glass to crack.
- ½ vanilla bean (1 gram)
- 2 cups (500 grams) heavy cream
- 5 large egg yolks (75 grams)
- ⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons (20 grams) turbinado or Demerara sugar
- Pinch salt
1. Using sous vide circulator, bring water to 180°F/82°C in 7-quart container.
2. Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Using tip of paring knife, scrape out seeds. Whisk vanilla bean and seeds, cream, egg yolks, granulated sugar, and salt in bowl until sugar has dissolved. Strain custard through fine-mesh strainer into 4-cup liquid measuring cup, then divide evenly among four 8-ounce widemouthed Mason jars. Gently tap jars on counter to remove any air bubbles, then seal; do not overtighten lids.
3. Gently lower jars into water bath until fully submerged. Cover and cook for at least 60 minutes or up to 75 minutes.
4. Transfer jars to wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours.
5. Gently blot away condensation on top of custards using paper towels. Sprinkle each custard with 1 teaspoon (5 grams) turbinado sugar. Tilt and tap each jar to distribute sugar evenly, then wipe rims of jars clean. Ignite torch and caramelize sugar by sweeping flame of torch from perimeter of custard toward middle, keeping flame about 2 inches above jar, until sugar is bubbling and deep golden brown. Let sit for 5 minutes to allow sugar crust to harden, then serve.
PHOTO CREDIT: STEVE KLISE