Westie's Deluxe Crème Brûlée

For his eleventh birthday, Westie asked for a crème brûlée torch.  I was a little concerned about giving a kid a torch, you know?  But it turned out alright.

(I finally, finally figured out how to make those accented French characters in Blogger!  Phew!)

The torch came with a recipe and four ramekins.  So, every now and then, Westie make us crème brûlée.  If you don't have a Westie in your household, don't miss out--make your own!  It's really not difficult.  If you don't have a crème brûlée torch, you can put the sugar-topped ramekins under the broiler for a minute or two.

Another thing we have learned is that you can make the crème ahead of time, but don't brûlée it until you are ready to serve.  Otherwise the crust turns watery, which ruins the fun of cracking the sugar when you eat it.

A couple of raspberries or a mint leaf make a lovely garnish.

Westie's Deluxe Crème Brûlée
Makes 4 generous servings

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/4 vanilla bean, split (I buy these at the Wedge, Lunds or Kitchen Window)
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/4 cup sugar
approx. 4 Tblsp sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, rack in middle position.

Combine heavy cream, milk and vanilla bean in a saucepan, heat to boil.  Remove from heat and let rest 10 minutes.  Pluck out the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds.  Add the seeds to the saucepan and discard the pod.

With an electric mixer, combine yolks, egg and sugar.  Add the milk in a steady thin stream.  After fully blended, strain the mixture through a fine strainer.  (We use a tea strainer, though a larger strainer would be better.)

Divide mixture into 4 ramekins.  Set ramekins in a baking dish and pour hot water around them so they are half submerged.  (Take care not to drip water into the ramekins!)

Place the pan in the oven and bake 25-30 minutes or until just set.  Remove from the oven and chill for 4 hours, or overnight.

Set each ramekin on a heatproof surface (such as a large cookie sheet).  Cover the top with sugar (the recipe calls for brown sugar, but Westie prefers to use white sugar for a crisper crust.)  We use a fork to spread the sugar around in an even, thin layer.

Caramelize the top with a torch working from the outer edges towards the middle until golden brown.  (Or set them under the broiler for a couple of minutes, if you don't have a torch.)  Repeat for each ramekin. Serve.