I recently catered a sweet sixteen birthday party. Although, it didn’t feel like a catered party. I catered for decades, but this was different. This was a very close, very dear teenaged friend of mine, Rebekah. I love Rebekah like a niece. Isn’t she purdy?
She reminds me a lot of me at her age in some ways, except she’s much smarter than I was. She’s brilliant, she’s witty (to the point of a snarky sarcasm that I adore), and we both proudly let our sci-fi geek flags fly.
I’m still upset with her for moving to high school just before I became a junior high leader at our church. Obviously, she had no control over the timing, but I like spending time with her, so I’m still upset. =)
So, I make it a point to get together with Rebekah and her best friend, Brie (who I absolutely ADORE just as much as I adore Rebekah), on a fairly regular basis to watch Doctor Who or the latest Star Wars movie. I usually make a bunch of food, and sometimes, they bring munchies, as well. We always have the bestest time.
So, when she recently asked me to make the food for her sweet sixteen party, I didn’t think twice. It was originally supposed to be an outdoor picnic setting, but the weather starting acting flighty. So, we decided on tea sandwiches (chicken salad with dried cranberries, toasted almonds, green onions, and tarragon), cucumber sandwiches with lemon-chive cream cheese, creamy tomato-basil soup, Caesar salad with garlicky homemade dressing and buttery croutons, and a cheese and cracker platter. Doggone it, I forgot to take a picture of the tomato soup! We even put it in bowls with a beautiful herb and chive garnish on top. Oh, well. I’ll leave that to your imagination.
One thing that stayed the same was the dessert. Rain or shine, indoors or al fresco, buffet or picnic style, the creme brûlée wasn’t going anywhere. This was Rebekah’s special request, and I wasn’t about to disappoint. Of course, my oven had other ideas. I’ve tortured this poor oven for something like fifteen years. It’s not a professional range, but I insist on treating it as such. I’m surprised it took this long to rebel. At any rate, the oven is now refusing to keep a uniform temperature. As a result, one side might register at 350 degrees, and the other 425. No wonder the first batch of cremes were part scrambled, part raw! As one would imagine, I was heartbroken and a bit panicky. But, there’s no time for panic for a chef on a mission.
I pulled out all of my best chef tricks, went back to the store to get more ingredients, got home, and hunkered down. It was a ridiculous dog and pony show, but I managed to get about 90% of the next batch to come out nicely. I refrigerated them overnight, then sugared and torched them at the party. Success! They were absolutely delectable. Everyone loved them, and the birthday girl was happy. Then, we watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the eleventy-billionth time with a bunch of her buddies . . . and loved every second of it.
Okay, well…back to the cremes. This recipe is ridiculously easy . . . but, please – for your own sanity – just make sure your oven is calibrated correctly before you make these. These are simple to make, but they’re very temperamental. An oven thermometer is super cheap, and it will save you from the headache I suffered.
You also don’t need many ingredients for creme brûlée: cream, egg yolks, vanilla, sugar, and a little salt, and you have the makings of culinary ecstasy.
Two notes: 1. The time frame for baking is 30 to 40 minutes, but usually, these take closer to 40 minutes to be sufficiently set. Depending on your oven, it might take a little longer. Just make sure to keep an eye on them. 2. Make sure to chill the custards thoroughly before torching – otherwise, your cremes will be like a soupy pudding. 3. Try not to eat all of these when you make them. Go ahead…I dare you. They’re that good!
Enjoy! Bon appetit! And, most importantly, have fun with that kitchen torch. (Heh.)