Tap, tap, tap, crack.
Is there anything more delightful than that special moment when the burnt-sugar top of a creme brulee is cracked open, exposing the delicious custard below?
The owner of French restaurant C'est Bon in Brisbane, Celine Damour, believes that moment is one of life's little wonders and is a ritual she has enjoyed since childhood.
Damour says the creme brulee holds a special place within French cuisine, as it's one of the oldest desserts and can be found on any French menu.
However, there is an art to making the perfect creme brulee, she says: "it's all about balance" and using quality ingredients.
"Cream and eggs should always be of the highest quality, preferably fresh cream and organic eggs, for the perfect outcome," she says.
"You can prepare a brulee a day before and keep it in the fridge but don't burn it too early. Last minute is the best so the caramel is still nice and warm when served."
Celine Damour's top tips for making creme brulee
Making the custard
- The set custard should be only faintly wobbly
- Use 9-centimetre ramekins
- Don't use cold eggs out of the fridge – make sure the eggs are at room temperature
- Don't over-whisk the cream – it puts too much air in
- Always add a pinch of salt to the cream or egg before combining - it will bring out the vanilla flavour and balance your palate
Cooking the creme brulee
- Creme brulee is cooked in a water bath (bain marie) so it cooks slowly and evenly without burning
- The creme brulee custard is ready when it is faintly wobbly - if you overcook it the custard will be rubbery
- When poaching in the oven, don't cover the creme brulee
That brulee top
- A light sprinkling of demerara sugar is used for the brulee top. It tastes richer than regular sugar.
- A blowtorch or hot grill can be used to create the creme brulee sugar crust. When blowtorching hold it about 6 centimetres away and work quickly to avoid melting the custard. If using a grill make sure it is very hot and watch carefully to avoid melting the custard. The key word is quick!
- Burn the sugar on top a little darker. It will add bitter sweetness to the dish.
Celine Damour's creme brulee
9 egg yolks
175g caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
500ml fresh double cream
Demerara sugar for the sugar crust
- Preheat oven to 140C.
- Mix egg yolks and caster sugar in a bowl until combined.
- Heat the cream in a saucepan with the split and scraped vanilla bean, bringing it just to the boil. Be careful not to burn it. Add a pinch of salt and stir. Remove the vanilla bean.
- When heated through, add the hot cream to the egg and sugar mixture and whisk to combine.
- Pass the mixture through a sieve into a jug. Pour the mixture equally into six ramekins, leaving about a centimetre at the top.
- Place the ramekins into a tray and fill the tray with hot water to the depth of 2 centimetres.
- Put the tray into the oven pre-heated and poach for 20 minutes.
- Remove the tray from the oven and transfer the ramekins to a fridge, where they must cool for at least an hour.
- When cooled, sprinkle a small amount of sugar evenly over the custards and heat with a handheld gas blowtorch or under a grill until golden brown.
Variations: Tamarillo, ginger, cherries, orange peel or chocolate can be added to the custard, but be careful not to throw the balance off.