When asked what her favourite meal is, Miss SA Top 30 contender Danielle Marais has no hesitation in saying “dessert.”
So it’s no surprise that when she is invited to share a favourite recipe, Marais opts for a classic vanilla bean crème brûlée.
Says the 24-year-old Randburg resident: “I am more of a ‘will wash-up for food’ type of person. My family cooks and I clean the kitchen. But there are two things that I can cook – eggs on toast and crème brûlée.
“Everyone has this misconception that crème brûlée is impossibly hard to make and reserved for top chefs in 5-star restaurants. But I promise you, if the eggs on toast girl can make it – so can you!”
Marais adds: “Crème brûlée is usually eaten when cold, but in these chilly winter times its okay if you dig into it while it is still warm. Here’s where some chefs may disagree with me, but you can decide for yourself.”
Danielle Marais’ Classic Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée.
2¾ cups whipping cream
1 vanilla bean or 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
4 large egg yolks
1 large whole egg
¾ cup sugar, plus extra for the brûlée, the hard-caramelised topping
Preheat the oven to 160°C and place 6 ramekins in a large pan where the sides of the pan are higher than the ramekins.
Heat the cream on medium low with the scraped seeds of the vanilla bean pod (and the pod, too, if you wish). If using vanilla bean paste, whisk it into the cream and heat.
Heat the cream for about 5 minutes, watching so that it doesn’t boil over.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg and sugar together. Whisk in the hot cream slowly, whisking constantly (but not overly vigorously, as you do not want bubbles) until all has been added. Strain and then ladle or pour into the ramekins. If any small bubbles appear on the surface of the custards, use the corner of a paper towel to dab them off (the bubbles, if left on, prevent the brûlée from browning easily and evenly).
Pour boiling water carefully around the ramekins, so that the water comes up just past halfway and carefully take this to the oven.
Bake for about 30 minutes until they are set around the edges, but still have a little jiggle to them when gently moved.
Let the custards cool for 10 minutes in the water bath then remove to cool completely on a rack.
Chill the custards for at least 3 hours before serving.
To serve, sprinkle each custard with a thin layer of sugar. Carefully ignite a kitchen butane torch and caramelise the sugar by moving the torch back and forth over the custard, about an inch or two away from it.
Sprinkle another thin layer of sugar over the first layer and torch it, repeating another two times or until the desired caramel layer is achieved.
Serve immediately and tuck into the best dessert!