Lemon and Vanilla Bean Creme Brûlée

I like reading. I mean, I really like reading. 

But only specific books. I don't like reading textbooks, even though the overall content might be interesting. Books for english classes, not fun. If you're told to read it, it ruins the fun of reading something, well, for fun.

I used to go to the local library and choose out 2 or 3 books. Not little 200 page books, either,  I'm talking big 500 page whoppers. The cover would spark my interest, or the title. If it was a small one, I just passed it by. I probably missed a lot of good books that way, but I wanted a book that would last me a week or two. Small ones would last me one night. I'd go through a huge process of elimination with my books. I'd pick out 7 or so, then slowly whittle it down to a couple. I would get home and sort the books according to which one I wanted to read first. I would then go about reading said book. But carrying those back home was a workout, let me tell you. 

There's something about stories that captivate me. I get completely immersed in books. I cry when I read some books, just like I do when I watch certain movies. The story stays with me even when I'm not reading it. I actually dread finishing the book because that means the story is over and I don't get to read it anymore. 

I haven't been able to read my own books these days, seeing as I have tons of reading for school. If I'm reading 200 pages a week about Roman gladiatorial games and ancient Mesopotamian legends, I'm not going to be able to really get into a story of my own choosing. 

That's why I'm looking forward to winter break! I'm going to stock up on a good book or two, sit myself down on my couch with a mug of tea, and read that book! Reading for hours on end is one of the top things of my "If I Didn't Have Work or School" list, along with practicing guitar and, of course, baking more! If I could update this blog every day, I'd be a happy camper.

Now, brûlée-ing is a tricky business. Seeing as I don't have a handheld torch, I tried to use my oven. That resulted in uneven caramelization which looked quite terrible. Instead, I made a simple caramel in a saucepan and poured it into my ramekins. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that the caramel would set immediately because the custards were cold. So, it's not a perfect creme brûlée, but hey, it's close! If you choose to make the caramel, let your custards come to room temperature.

Recipe adapted from Sugar

3 cups (750 mL) whipped cream
2 vanilla beans
2 - 2 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest (2 lemons worth)
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
dash of salt

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

To get the vanilla seeds out of the pod, make an incision lengthwise down the bean. Open it up and run your knife up the bean, scraping up all the seeds as you go. 

Put the vanilla seeds, pods, lemon zest, and cream in a saucepan. Heat it until it's almost at a simmer. Take out the pods.

Using an electric mixer or a hand mixer, beat the egg yolks, sugar, and salt until pale and thick. On low speed, slowly add the hot cream. Strain this mixture and chill it in the fridge. You can keep this mixture in the fridge up to 2 days later.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Boil a liter or two of water in a kettle or pot. Place 6 5-ounce ramekins in a baking pan with a tall lip. Briefly stir the chilled brûlée mixture and pour into the ramekins. Pour the boiling water in the pan so the water comes up halfway on the ramekins. Very carefully, put the pan with the ramekins in the oven. Bake the creme brûlées for 45 to 55 minutes, until they don't jiggle when you tap them. Remove from the oven, take the ramekins out of the bath, and chill them for at least 3 hours.

If you have a small butane torch, you probably have it for making creme brûlées and don't need to be told how to brûlée something. If, like most people, you do not own ones of these, I would suggest making the caramel. It's much easier and creates a much more beautiful creme brûlée. I suggest taking the custards out of the fridge and leaving them for out for half an hour or so. You don't want to make the same mistake I did!

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan but do not stir it. On high heat, boil the sugar until it turns a light amber colour, about 4 to 5 minutes. Be careful, as it darkens very quickly and burns even quicker! Take it off the heat and quickly spoon onto your custards. Swirl the caramel so it coats all of the custard. Wait a few minutes and there you have your beautiful lemon and vanilla bean creme brûlées.

You can keep the custards like this up to 3 hours before you serve them.

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