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Make elegant Valentine’s Day dessert at home

Are you planning something sweet for your sweethearts on Valentine’s Day? May I suggest this impressive and memorable dessert for your loved ones? Let’s make creme brulee.

If you’re not familiar, creme brulee (krem-broo-lei) literally translated means “cream burnt.” It’s a cold creamy vanilla custard with caramelized sugar on top that hardens into a glasslike surface. The most satisfying part of eating creme brulee is that initial crack when you hit the caramel surface with the back of your spoon, you scoop a little bit up, along with the silky-smooth custard underneath. The flavor and texture combination is simply divine.

If your first thought was “I can’t make that!” you’re in good company. Most assume that because it’s a staple at swanky restaurants it must be difficult to make. I assure you, restaurant quality creme brulee can be made at home for a fraction of the cafe cost. Honestly, it’s dangerous to know you can make something this decadent anytime the craving hits.

Making creme brulee is surprisingly easy. All you do is mix egg yolks with cream and a little sugar. Bake, then chill and broil with sugar on top. The ingredients are remarkably humble, but the result is incredible. No torch or special equipment required, it’s all about technique.

Learning and applying cooking techniques costs you nothing but the rewards are significant. In this recipe, we practice tempering eggs, using a bain-marie (ban mah-REE) aka water bath, and broiling or torching sugar to make caramel.

CREME BRULEE

Yield: 6 4-ounce servings

Cook time: 35 minutes

Total time: 3 hours

What you’ll need:

2 cups heavy whipping cream

Pinch salt

5 egg yolks

½ cup white sugar plus extra for caramelizing

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Here’s how:

Preheat the oven to 325 F and arrange six 4-ounce or four 6-ounce ramekins in a rimmed baking pan that’s at least as deep as the ramekins. Heat a kettle of water for the bain-marie.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream and a pinch of salt to a simmer, stirring frequently until bubbles start to form around the edge. Remove it from the heat and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized mixing bowl combine the egg yolks with the sugar and whisk briskly for one to two minutes, until the egg mixture lightens in color.

Now, temper the eggs with the hot cream by slowly raising the temperature of the eggs so they don’t scramble. Gradually whisk about one-third of the hot cream to the yolks, whisking constantly. Then slowly add the remaining hot cream. Add vanilla and stir to fully combine.

Just in case there are any egg solids, strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean container, ideally one with a pour spout.

Next, pour or ladle the custard into the ramekins, dividing evenly. Carefully place the baking pan in the oven and pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins, taking care not to slosh hot water onto yourself or into the ramekins. The bain-marie creates a gentle heat resulting in a uniform cooking process.

Bake until the edges are set but the center still jiggles when gently shaken, about 25 to 30 minutes. You want the middle a bit wobbly as the custard will firm up in the refrigerator.

The depth of your ramekin or custard cup determines how long it takes to bake. If you’re concerned, a thermometer should register 150-155 F in the center.

Remove the ramekins from the water bath and cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for at least two hours.

This custard can be made days in advance and refrigerated (that’s why it’s popular at restaurants). But don’t add the caramelized topping until you’re ready to serve.

When you’re ready to serve, evenly sprinkle the entire surface of each custard with a thin layer of sugar, using 1 -2 teaspoons per ramekin. Using a kitchen blowtorch or the broiler, evenly melt and caramelize the sugar. If using the broiler, put the ramekins on a baking sheet and place in cold oven on a rack directly under the broiler. Turn the broiler on high and watch closely as they brown. Serve immediately.

Grab your spoon, enjoy that most satisfying thwack through the burnt-sugar caramel and scoop up some of that velvety custard. Now perhaps you won’t think I’m crazy when I say the most romantic Valentine’s Day gift is a blowtorch.

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is a recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com.

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