Creme Brulee is considered a pretty fancy dish, an excellent finish for a fine meal. But really it’s just custard with melted sugar on top. Simple, right? Well, custard making may be simple on paper — but in practice it can be a bit fussy.
Sous vide changes the game. Now you can just mix the ingredients cold, divide the mix into freezer-safe mason jars, cook an hour, chill, apply and flame the sugar top, and serve! No need to temper hot cream into the eggs, fuss with a “bain marie” that risks sloshing water into your oven or into your ramekins, and try to judge how much “jiggle” means they are cooked just right.
Sous vide is super simple, and the custard is effortlessly perfect every time. The mason jar adds a rustic quality that fits in with a wild game dinner. Redneck haute cuisine!
Before you decide to try this recipe, read the notes at the bottom and consider the “Bag” method. It makes the whole thing faster, easier, lets you use more traditional vessels instead of mason jars — and allows for using ingredients like berries “in” rather than “on” the custard.
- 6 Oz (weight) egg yolks — med. yolk ≈ 1/2 oz, jumbo yolk ≈ 2/3oz. 6oz yolks by weight = .7 cups by volume
- 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 3/4 cups heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon vanilla exctract
- 5 8oz widemouth canning jars w/lids & bands — use ONLY freezer safe jars to minimize the risk of cracking while flaming the sugar top.
- 1/4 cup sugar — Regular sugar works, but "superfine" (a.k.a. bakers sugar or caster sugar) works better. It caramelizes easier
- Prep your sous vide setup to ensure you have enough water to cover your "min" depth while pre-heating, and that you won't go over your "max" depth when the jars are added.
- Whisk yolks and sugar together until smooth.
- Add remaining ingredients and whisk until well blended. Not too energetically—try not to raise a froth or foam.
- Strain through a fine mesh
- Rest half an hour at room temp. Preheat your sous vide setup to 176°F (80°C).
- Skim any bubbles from mixture (a kiss of flame from a torch works) and pour into jars. Allow enough room for the sugar topping, but not much more or your jars will float or be unstable.
- Put lids and bands on jars and tighten firmly to seat lid. Then loosen the band and re-tighten to just finger-tip tightness. This seats the lid against the sous-vide water while allowing heated air to escape as it expands.
- If sous vide is up to temp, using a (a jar lifter place jars in the water. Cook 1 hour after temp returns to 176°F (80°C).
- Remove from water using the jar lifter and stage at room temp a few minutes until cooled enough to handle without gloves. Then place in icewater bath to quickly chill. If serving within 4 hours continue on to next step, otherwise, stage in fridge up to 5 days before continuing.
- Up to 4 hours before serving. blot custard surface dry with paper towel. Cover with a layer of granulated sugar, about 2 tsp per jar. Gently shake to evenly distribute.
- Apply the flame, taking the obvious safety precautions and using some common sense about your chosen work surface. Butane fed "chefs torches" are expensive and don't work as well as a standard propane torch you may already own. But for the best (but +$) solution google "Searzall".
Whatever you use, move the flame around the sugar until it's liquidy and splotchy brown. Dark is ok but not black. Whisps of smoke are normal-even good. Just move the flame away from the smoking part when you see it.
Freezer-safe jars should not crack, but watch for it anyway and DEFINITELY discard any jars you even suspect of cracking.
- Return to fridge to cool a few minutes, up to 4 hours You want that nice "crack" when the spoon penetrates the sugar. Longer and you risk the top getting soggy.
Don't be daunted by the flaming part. You'll get the hang of it quickly.
Custard is rich, and a cup (8 oz) is a lot. You could consider using the narrow-mouth 4 oz canning jar (also available in freezer-safe) instead.
An alternative to using jars is to cook the mixture in a sous-vide bag instead. After cooking, while still hot, snip a corner of the bag and "pipe" the custard into ramekins. If adding goodies like berries, first pipe in a shallow "bed" of brulee and push the berries into it, then pipe the rest over the top. This helps prevent voids. If you don't have heat-resistant gloves you can wait until it cools just enough to handle without discomfort, but don't wait longer than that - it will thicken too much to pipe smoothly. Immediately smooth the surface to make it level, then to the fridge for a thorough chill before adding sugar and caramelizing.
WARNING: I've done the sous vide bag method twice. The first time it was perfect, the second it had a slightly grainy texture. Not sure why. Going to try at 179°F/81.7°C