Life has been extremely busy recently and days and hours have been whizzing by in a blur. I’ve been enjoying it immensely, but I’m not used to the pace and I crave quiet and familiarity to keep me grounded. I need a break from the newness and novelty and seek comfort in things I know well, especially with food.
Simplicity doesn’t have to mean denial though. You can make classics eternally interesting with quality ingredients and care. It can be mashed potato beaten with butter and hot milk until silky soft and smooth or the boiled egg cooked with a perfectly gooey yolk and fingers of toast just the right golden shade or a cup of tea drawn with fresh boiling water and proper tea leaves in your favourite cup. It’s the sum of its parts more than anything else.
At times like this, my greatest indulgence is crème brûlée. Combining how easy it is to make with the contrast between the crisp sugar shell and the smooth cream custard inside, it always hits the spot for me. I’m not an enormous fan of making this classic dessert too fussy, but I’ve always found the utterly simple vanilla version slightly lacking something. Inspired by the way that the malt powder in my recent Paris Buns deepened the flavour without dominating, I decided to use it instead of my albeit brilliant homemade vanilla extract.
Malted Milk Crème Brûlée (makes 2 large or 4 small, adapted from Felicity Cloake’s Perfect)
- 300ml double cream
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 3 tablespoons malt powder (I used Horlicks)
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons demerara sugar
Heat the oven to 150℃. Place two ramekins in a deep oven proof dish. Beat the egg yolks and the caster sugar together until they form a slightly airy mix. Pour the cream into a saucepan and heat over a medium heat until just boiling. Pour over the Horlicks powder in a heatproof bowl and stir well. Then add into it into the egg yolk mix. Transferring it from the pan to a bowl will cool the cream just enough to make sure the eggs don’t curdle. Make sure it is evenly mixed and voila, you have custard!
Pour the custard into the ramekins, leaving a bit of space at the top. Then fill the oven proof dish with cold water until it comes about 2/3s of the way up the dishes. This makes a water bath or bain marie and it cooks the custard gently so it stays wobblingly soft and yielding instead of omelette like. Bake for about 40 minutes and allow to cool at room temperature. You can then keep them in the fridge until needed.
Once cooled, sprinkle the top of the custard with the demerara sugar and blast under a very hot grill for about 5 minutes until blistered and melted or use a cook’s blowtorch for even more fun. Cool down again for about 10 minutes and the sugar will have formed a glistening crust that just cries out to be shattered with a spoon and eaten alongside the smooth creamy sweet custard with gusto. I won’t judge you at all if you run your finger round the dish to finish it all off…
This was the best crème brûlée I’ve made (and I’ve made a few, believe me!) The malt powder enhanced the natural sweetness of the cream and everything felt even more creamy and more luxurious than normal. Simple and classic but with just enough of a twist to be relevant. It’ll soothe even the most stressful day.