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Cardamom Crème Brûlées

The distinctive flavors of cardamom and vanilla infuse these simple custards, which are ideally baked a day ahead of serving so they are fully chilled before you caramelize the lightly sugared tops. That way, the custard will still be cold when your guests break through the brittle top.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 2 pods white cardamom, cracked open
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 10 Tbs. superfine (caster) sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 325°F. Select a baking dish 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep and large enough to hold four 3/4-cup ramekins or other ovenproof dishes. Line the baking dish with a thin kitchen towel.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, vanilla bean, and cardamom pods and their seeds. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 minute. Remove the vanilla bean and, using the tip of a knife, scrape the seeds into the cream. Continue to simmer the cream, stirring often, for 3 to 4 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, 6 Tbs. of the sugar and the salt until thickened, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the warm (not hot) cream mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a 2-cup measuring pitcher. Skim any bubbles off the surface. Divide the custard evenly among the prepared ramekins. Place the ramekins in the towel-lined dish and pour hot water into the dish to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the dish loosely with aluminum foil.

Bake the custards until they are set but jiggle slightly in the center when shaken, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the baking dish to a wire rack and let the custards cool slightly, then lift the ramekins out of the water bath and set on the rack to cool for 1 hour. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

Just before serving, preheat a broiler. Sprinkle each custard evenly with 1 Tbs. of the remaining sugar. Place the custards on a rimmed baking sheet and slide under the broiler about 4 inches from the heat source. Broil just until the sugar caramelizes, 1 to 2 minutes. Alternatively, use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Two in the Kitchen, by Christie Dufault & Jordan Mackay (Weldon Owen, 2012).