We've all been burnt. Yes, it hurts. Sometimes there are scars. But there is also a sweetness to it. Caramel, don't forget, is burnt sugar.
'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Blah blah blah. The sweetness I'm talking about is not some prosaic remuneration in the form of self-betterment. Absolutely not. It is ice cream, or brownies, and the license, in the wake of an extensive emotion earthquake, to take solace is the sweeter things in life.
It is up to each of us to pick our poison, and mine is crème brûlée. Alas, there is something better in life than that man or that friend or that house or that paycheck. What man could be sweeter, what paycheck richer?
Crème brûlée, unlike life and love, is deceptively easy. Cream, sugar, vanilla, and eggs are all it takes to practice culinary alchemy. I lend a little American flair by adding maple syrup, and melting dark brown molasses-laden sugar to a window-pane shell over the custard. After all, with crème brûlée you get to do some burning of your own, and take out any residual anger on the hard sugar shell that encases the cool, thick, comforting sweet cream that lies beneath.
So when life gives you lemons, or ex-boyfriends, or lost jobs, don't make lemonade. Make caramel. Bon app.
Maple Brown Sugar Crème Brûlée
2 ½ cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
4 egg yolks
8 teaspoons dark brown sugar, plus 6 teaspoons
8 teaspoons maple syrup
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
2. Place the vanilla bean seeds and the pod itself with the cream in a saucepot. Heat until little bubbles form around the sides of the cream in the pot.
3. Boil a kettle of water.
4. Meanwhile, beat the yolks and sugar together until the yolks become a pale yellow color (I use an electric handheld beater). Whisk in the maple syrup.
5. Add a little bit of the hot cream to the egg yolks and sugar, using an electric beater to combine.
6. Decant the custard mixture into 6 oven-safe ramekins. Place the ramekins in a baking dish.
7. Remove one ramekin and fill the baking dish halfway up the sides of the ramekins with the boiling water. Replace the ramekin, and place the whole lot in the oven.
8. Bake for 40 minutes. Then, remove the crème brûlée from the oven, and leave in the water bath on the counter until everything comes to room temperature. Refrigerate until completely set, preferably overnight.
9. When you are about to serve the crème brûlée, scatter the top of each custard with 1 teaspoon of dark brown sugar, and use a torch to gently caramelize the sugar.
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