This luscious recipe for gluten-free crème brûlées uses fresh strawberries and nectarines, but feel free to use any fruit combination you like. For those of you who break out in a cold sweat at the thought of making a crème brûlée from scratch, this is a really simple recipe. I truly think the secret (besides a bit of patience) is using a mini blowtorch to finish the brûlées and avoid using the broiler all together. You’ll have much more control with the mini blowtorch, so you can avoid scorching the tops. And let’s be honest: they’re kind of fun, like a glue gun with fire attached. You can find them only for quite cheap, and what dinner guest won’t be impressed by your tableside fire skills? If you’ve got a fear of fire, you can enjoy these tiny pots of custardy heaven on their own without the caramelized tops.
Adding the hot cream to the egg mixture is the most crucial step when preparing this recipe. If the eggs are not added gradually, you’ll wind up with scrambled eggs in cream instead of custard. Go slowly and take your time.
- 1 cup fruit, sliced into bite-size pieces (pictured above: strawberries and peeled nectarines)
- 1 teaspoon water
- 2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
- 5 tablespoons finely granulated sugar, divided
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Seeds from ½ vanilla bean pod
Preheat oven to 325° F and have four (6-ounce) ovenproof ramekins ready.
Bring the fruit and water to a bubbly, gentle boil in a small nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Once boiling slightly, turn the heat down to low and let simmer until the fruit has softened, about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently.
Turn off the heat and let the fruit cool in the pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks and 3 tablespoons sugar until light and frothy. Set aside. (Note: If you are planning to serve these as custards and aren’t planning to caramelize the top with either a blowtorch or the broiler, add all 5 tablespoons of sugar into the mixture now.)
In another small nonstick saucepan, gently warm together the cream and vanilla bean seeds over low heat, stirring often for 2 to 3 minutes.
Increase heat to medium and bring to a gentle boil, stirring frequently so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
As soon as the cream comes to a boil, quickly remove it from the heat and slowly pour into the egg mixture, whisking continuously. Take your time with this step, as you want to temper the mixture, not scramble the eggs.
Whisk well and transfer the custard mixture to a large measuring cup. Set aside.
Bring a kettle or medium saucepan filled with water to a boil.
Using a slotted spoon, divide the fruit compote mixture evenly among the 4 ramekins. (Use only the fruit here; try to avoid adding any liquid.)
Pour the custard mixture over the fruit, distributing it evenly among the 4 ramekins.
Place the ramekins in a deep-sided baking dish.
Carefully pour the boiling water into the baking dish until the water comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Be careful to not get any water into the ramekins themselves.
Gently place the dish onto the middle rack of the 325° F oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the custards are firmly set and no longer jiggle in the middle. (Use precaution when placing the tray in the oven to avoid spilling water in the ramekins.)
Carefully remove the ramekins from the dish and let cool on a heat-resistant surface, such as a cutting board.
Once fully cooled, wrap each custard tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
Before serving, sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar over custards. Gently give the ramekins a shake to ensure the sugar is distributed evenly.
Using a mini blowtorch, caramelize the sugar until golden brown and bubbly. For the best results, make sure the custards are as cold as possible (straight out of the refrigerator) before you use the blowtorch. It should only take about 1 to 2 minutes each to caramelize.
Alternatively, you can broil the custards for 2 minutes until the tops are brown and bubbly.
Nutrition Analysis: 350 cal, 27 g fat, 265 mg chol, 65 mg sodium, 21 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 20 g sugar, 6 g protein.
Jilly Lagasse began cooking as a child when her father, Chef Emeril Lagasse, gave her a set of chef’s whites and let her help in the pastry and dessert department in one of his restaurants. She was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2004 and has written two gluten-free cookbooks with her sister, Jessie Lagasse Swanson, as the duo The Lagasse Girls, www.lagassegirls.com.