I can’t believe how beloved this dish seems to be to dinner guests around here, and how few actually make it. And by few, I believe zero would be fair. So either I’ve unintentionally deceived them into thinking it’s ridiculously difficult to make – or they’re lying to me about how much they really like it.
I own the CIA’s Professional Chef, and I use their recipe. When I first set eyes on the recipe, I thought ‘wow, if I could make this, I’d be AWESOME’. Awesomeness achieved. Sweet.
I’ve since made it countless times, trying vanilla bean, vanilla extracts of varying qualities, combinations of bean and extracts, and maple syrup variations. I’m also a serious enough geek to have done some math, and know that it costs about $3.50 to make the whole batch, and it contains about 1400 calories. At 4 portions, that’s $0.89 and 358 cal per portion. Like I said. I’m a geek.
You will not find this ingredient list or method in the CIA book. The ratios are the same, but reduced, and the method is what I’ve found works for me.
fills 3 Emile Henry dishes in photo above quite full, will make 4 portions
300 ml heavy cream
1/8-1/4 vanilla bean
57 g plain old sugar
71 g egg yolk, beaten [roughly 3] [use a big bowl here]
Preheat oven to 325.
De-seed vanilla bean and toss the guts into the cream. The pod generally goes in my vanilla sugar.
Add half the sugar, and heat over medium to just barely a simmer. It’ll take a while.
While the cream is heating, whisk the other half of the sugar into the egg yolks. For quite a while. Keep going. You want them really thick and foamy and lightened in color. Get a couple dish towels/wash cloths to cup the base of the bowl, which will help with the next step.
Once the cream is ready, remove from heat, and very slowly, drop by drop whisk it into the egg mixture. Increase your drops in size to a light pour as you go. When you hit half-way, a dump is acceptable. Scrape out all the vanilla seeds with a spatula. They sink.
Pour into ramekins set in a bain marie, and bake for roughly 45 minutes. I hit my oven handle with the side of my fist, and gauge doneness by the jiggle of the custard. Such are the advantages of experience.
Remove, cool. I make them a day ahead. Add sugar [too much, then dump off excess works for me]. Add fire. Eat.