Tomorrow is Mother’s Day so in the interest of being helpful, I’m publishing this newsletter a day early. This one goes out to all of you mothering someone in your life. Thank you for lighting yourself on fire to keep us all warm.
One of my mother’s favorite desserts is crème brulee. She’s the kind of woman who used to rarely allow herself even the smallest indulgence despite having a prodigious sweet tooth. Mom was too busy working full time and dealing with 2 very headstrong kids to think of treating herself. That made it all the more memorable when she found a moment to actually enjoy something.
One winter my family drove to Yosemite National Park for a little vacation. Uncharacteristically, we went to the famous Sunday brunch at The Ahwahnee– where my parents had spent their honeymoon years before. The spread was gorgeous and the view of the snow-covered valley floor from the dining room looked like something straight out of Narnia. But what stood out the most was my mom sending my brother and I to grab fresh ramekins of crème brulee for her as soon as they came out of the kitchen. Here was my mom looking happier than ever eating something she’d never even mentioned before. The whole brunch was so memorable not because it was one of the fanciest things we ever did as family but because of how happy my mom was cracking through all the bruleed sugar. None of us should have to wait decades to eat our favorite thing, particularly mothers. It’s fucking ridiculous.
This crème brulee is easy as hell to make and can serve as a base for all kinds of flavors. I kept it classic with a vanilla bean but you should feel free to branch out. Want it to be earl grey flavored? Toss 2 tea bags in as the milk comes to a simmer. Chamomile or chai would be delicious too. Replace the vanilla with rosewater and pair it with some fresh strawberries. You could keep it simple and just try out different flavors of creamers, like chocolate or cookie butter, until you find a favorite. This is one of those rare instances where I am going to recommend a product to you in a recipe. I have tried every single starch out there to make this work and there is no better way, or better price, than using Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer. Everything else just makes too watery of a custard. Luckily, it is gluten free and only contains potato starch, tapioca powder, baking soda, and psyllium husk so it’s not full of random trash. This is not an ad, just the best product for the job.
A butane torch really is the best way to make these so consider buying one online or at your local kitchen supply store. I use mine for browning the tops of casseroles and lasagnas all the time when the broiler just isn’t cutting it. You can find a decent one for under $30 bucks. If you are having trouble melting the sugar, pulse it in a blender or food processor to make the sugar crystals smaller and thus easier to melt. If you have older kids, they can handle this recipe by themselves. Just wander over during torch time and take over. It’s a great way to get some rage out plus you get a treat when it’s over. Now that’s a solid mother’s day gift. This one’s for you Beverly.
Vanilla Crème Brûlée
makes 8 individual servings in oven safe ramekins
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