Chocolate Crème Brûlées:
2 1/2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
9 large egg yolks
Caramel topping (using a propane torch):
8 teaspoons granulated sugar
Caramel topping (using a broiler):
12 tablespoons light brown sugar
Spray water bottle
Make the custard:
- Position a rack in the center of the over and preheat to 325° F. Put eight 6-ounce ramekins (do not use custard cups) in a high-sided roasting pan.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, milk, sugar, salt and vanilla bean. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar. Continue cooking until small bubbles form around the side of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes. Return the pan to the heat and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Remove the pan from the heat. Discard the vanilla bean.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until blended. Slowly stir in the hot cream mixture. Strain the custard into a 1-quart measuring cup. Pour the custard into the ramekins. Remove one of the ramekins from a corner of the roasting pan. Hold a metal pancake spatula vertically inside that corner of the roasting pan and slowly pour the boiling water against the spatula into the roasting pan. (The spatula will prevent the water from splashing the other ramekins.) Pour in enough boiling water to come one-third of the way up the sides of the ramekins. Replace the ramekin in the roasting pan.
- Bake the custards for 25 to 30 minutes or until the edges are set and the centers still quiver. A small knife inserted into the center of a custard will come out creamy. Do not overbake, the custards will set completely after chilling. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and place them on wire racks for 30 minutes to cool. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours until thoroughly chilled.
Caramelize the custards (using a propane torch):
- Place the chilled custards in a highsided roasting pan. Surround the ramekins with ice cubes. Sprinkle the top of each custard evenly with 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar. Using a household propane torch, caramelize the top of each custard by heating the sugar with the flame until it melts and turns to a dark amber caramel. Remove the ramekins from the ice and refrigerate for no longer than 10 minutes to set the caramel crust. Serve the crème brûlées immediately.
Caramelize the custards (using a broiler):
- Preheat the broiler. Place the chilled custards in a high-sided roasting pan. Surround the ramekins with ice cubes. Using about 1 1/2 tablespoons per custard, sprinkle the tops of the custards with a loose, even layer of brown sugar. Using a spray water bottle, lightly spray the sugar-topped custards. (This will help melt the brown sugar that will otherwise burn before melting. Be sure to spray lightly or the sugar will not caramelize properly.) Place the roasting pan with the custards underneath the broiler. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the sugar melts and turns to a dark amber caramel. It may be necessary to rearrange the ramekins half way through cooking for even browning. Remove the ramekins from the ice and refrigerate for no longer than 10 minutes to set the caramel crust. Serve the crème brûlées immediately.