"The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose the other ages you've been."
~ Madeleine L'Engle
When I was a kid I wanted to be Molly Ringwald. Me and my sister watched and re-watched Sixteen Candles over and over until my brothers had had enough and confiscated both the remote control and VCR, not without us putting up a fight I might add. We never got tired of the Geek and Jake and Long Duck Dong and the annoying little brother. And the ending. I mean how perfect is the ending? Samantha finally gets to see Jake after her horrible sister gets married, and there he is looking all super hot in his super hot car. On her sixteenth birthday no less. I mean, come on. What girl in her right mind didn't want to have a birthday like that one day? She set the bar high, that Molly Ringwald girl.
Tomorrow I turn 39, and I feel pretty good about it. Lord knows I don't feel 39, nor apparently look it (thank you most excellent ageless genes!) One day last week my 8 year old niece told me I look 16, thus officially becoming my favourite kid in the whole wide world. Full disclosure: I was wearing pigtails at the time, and those take decades off. But mostly I just feel really really happy. So many good things are working wonders in my life and everyday I wake up and think how lucky am I? To quote Snow Patrol, this is my time, and I'm loving every minute of it. I can't believe I wrote that last sentence. Apparently being a huge dork does not end as one inches a year closer to 40.
So about this crème brûlée business. This is some gooood business. A very handsome, funny and kind man was seated at my dining room table a few nights ago (!!!), and this was dessert. I know. I pulled out the big guns. Crème brûlée is sexy business, am I right? A simple concoction of egg yolks, whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla, it only takes a few minutes to prepare, but somehow seems intimidating to pull off. Believe me, there is nothing to it. Maybe it's because all of the high-end restaurants have crème brûlée on their dessert menu and charge $8 for it, or maybe it's because you think you need a blowtorch for it (I totally used my broiler and it turned out fantastic, though apparently there is a blowtorch in my brother's garage I can have if I like...) This was the first time I've ever made it, I think. Maybe eons ago in cooking school there was crème brûlée day - and all I can say is this: like most good things in life, it all comes down to timing.
So check it. These are my ingredients. Note the peanut butter cups. Julie said to place one in the bottom of each ramekin, whisk a simple custard together and pour it into the ramekins. Place these into a 9x13 baking dish and pour water in so that it comes halfway up the ramekins. Fancy folks call this a water bath. Bake until set and yet jiggly - this is the timing part - about 40 minutes in my oven. Remove, cool and get ready for the fun part.
So you can totally do these the day before or even a couple of days before (another reason why pastry chefs love crème brûlée so much - easy, quick, delicious, and great to do ahead of time) and just take them out a little before you want to serve them. Sprinkle with sugar and if you have a kitchen blowtorch, go ahead caramelize the lot, or if not, just place under your broiler and watch them like crazy. Maybe my broiler is ancient and tired, but it took about 8-9 minutes of fevered watching until I was satisfied with the amount of amber glory on top. You don't want any granules of sugar hanging around, because that's no fun. All the sugar should be like a dark amber glass. If you get a few burnt spots, that just makes them prettier.
Let them hang out on the counter while you and your lovely guest feast on pan seared beef tenderloin with mushroom demi glace, garlic mashed potatoes, maple glazed carrots and green beans with dill. Um yeah, we totally ate that on Sunday night. But I digress. Or, you can chill them after you caramelize the tops and I think that's super yummy too. I know because I made 4 and have been eating the rest all this week. What? It's my birthday week - calories totally don't count!
Tap tap tap. The spoon breaking though the sugar crust is one sexy sound, no? The custard is perfect creamy decadence and on the bottom is the unsuspecting peanut butter cup - lending some nutty salt factor to an already over the top dessert. If you don't like peanut butter in your crème brûlée, feel free to add citrus zest, or lavender buds, or vanilla beans, or espresso powder to your custard. Variations abound.
My all time favourite part of Sixteen Candles is the final scene, when Samantha and Jake are sitting on top of his parents' dining room table, a glowing birthday cake between them. He tells her to make a wish and she's all it already came true. When I blow out my candles on Friday night, I can honestly say the same thing. I'm finally Molly Ringwald.
Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cup Crème Brûlée
2 packages of peanut butter cups
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus a bit more for sprinkling
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Place the peanut butter cups in the bottom of 4-6 small ramekins. Mine are 250 ml or 8 ounces.
Whisk together the yolks and sugar, then whisk in the whipping cream and vanilla. Pour into the ramekins. Place ramekins in a 9x13 baking dish. Pour water halfway up the ramekins and place in a preheated 325*F oven for about 40 minutes, until the custard is set but yet jiggly in the middle. Let cool on a rack then refrigerate until very cold, a few hours or overnight. Sprinkle sugar (about 1 tsp per ramekin) on top and either caramelize the sugar with a blowtorch or under the broiler for about 8 minutes. Watch very carefully and take out immediately once all of the sugar is melted and golden. Let cool either on the counter or refrigerate again. Dig in to decadence. Serves 4-6 depending on ramekin size. Adapted from Dinner With Julie.