Crème Brûlée

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Do you have a favorite dessert?  I do.  It’s this one.

There is just something about Crème Brûlée that satisfies my sweet tooth.  The hard, sugary top you have to crack into, the creamy custard underneath… it is just so good.  If it is on a menu, I’m ordering it. This is also the perfect dessert for that Valentine’s Dinner we just talked about.  Forget the chocolate, everyone does that, and go for the vanilla!

While this dessert may look complicated, it requires just a few everyday ingredients and a little time for the custard to set up.  And what a way to impress your Valentine by torching up some sugar!

What’s your favorite dessert?


Crème Brûlée

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 T vanilla
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar, more for topping

Heat your oven to 325.

In a medium saucepan, combine the cream and salt.  Cook over low heat just until hot – you don’t want to scorch the cream.

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Remove the pan from the heat.  Add the vanilla, whisk and let it sit to cool for a few minutes.

If you are feeling super fancy you can definitely use vanilla bean in this recipe.  To use a whole bean, carefully slice all the way down one side of the bean.  Drop it in the cream/salt mixture and let it heat up in the liquid.  When you pull the pan from the heat, take the bean out of the mixture and, using the back of a knife or a spoon, scrape all the seeds out of the bean pod.  Drop the scrapings back into the mixture and whisk it all together to see those lovely black bits in your custard.

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Separate five eggs, you will use the yolks in this recipe. Hang on to those egg whites – you can make an egg white omelet, save them for the next pie topping… but in our house saving the eggs whites means that Sadie gets a nice treat with her dinner.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until they are a pale yellow color.  You can break out the electric mixers but I find that a classic whisk will do the job just fine here.

Whisk about 1/4 cup of the cream into the egg mixture, beating constantly so that the cream is incorporated but you don’t cook or scramble the egg yolks.  This is called tempering the eggs – if you dump hot liquid on eggs without tempering you’ll end up with scrambled egg lumps in your custard, which is probably not the romantic note you are looking for this your dessert!

Pour the sugar-egg mixture into the rest of the cream and whisk until combined.

Place four 6-ounce ramekins into a baking dish and divide the custard evenly between the ramekins.

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Bring a couple cups of water to a boil, I like to use my teapot here, and then carefully pour the boiling water into the baking dish so that the water comes up the ramekins about halfway.  This is a water bath – it allows the custard to cook evenly in the oven and prevent a crust from forming around the top.  It is MUCH easier to accomplish this without spills and splashes if you place the waterless baking dish in the oven and then fill before shutting it in.

Bonus: the leftover water lends itself nicely to a warm cup of tea 🙂

Bake the custards for 30-40 minutes, or until the centers are barely set.

Cool the custards completely on a wire rack.  Once cooled, refrigerate for several hours and up to a couple of days.  If the custards will be chilling for more than a couple of hours, place a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of the ramekin and very lightly set it over the custard to prevent a film from forming.  Do not top with sugar until you are ready to serve the completed dessert.

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You can see that mine aren’t perfect, there are little bubbles and such… Who cares?  It’s about to be sugar coated anyway!

Now, gather your Valentine for the show!

When you are ready to serve your desserts, pull the custards from the refrigerator and top each custard you are serving with a thin layer of sugar.  Many Crème Brûlée recipes call for a fine sugar on top of the custard.  That may be ideal, but not necessary.  Regular table sugar will work, you just may not get as neat and smooth of a sugar crust on top.  To solve this issue, I simply put the table sugar into a small blender or food processor and zap it a few seconds.  Bingo! Fine sugar that looks like something between table sugar and powdered sugar. The crucial part is:  keep the sugar in one thin layer.  The thicker the sugar, the more heat it takes to get that candy coating and the more likely you are to burn rather than crystalize.

Time to torch!

Using a cooking torch, slowly run the flame over the sugar until it melts and browns.  A little black is okay – just try to keep the flame running smoothly over the top to get that crust that a Crème Brûlée screams for.

Don’t have a torch?  No problem!  Place the ramekins under a broiler about 2-3 inches from the heat source.  Keep a watch on them and cook until sugar melts and browns, about 5 minutes.

Top the dessert with a dab of whipped cream and a few berries.  Because everything is better with whipped cream and berries.

I mean… look at that crust!

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Let me hear ya:  who are you making this tasty, sugary dessert for this Valentines?


Full Recipe

Crème Brûlée

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 T vanilla
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar, more for topping

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

In a saucepan, combine cream and salt and cook over low heat just until hot.

Add vanilla, stir and let sit for a few minutes.

In a bowl, beat yolks and sugar together until light.

Whisk about ¼ cup of the cream into this mixture, then pour sugar-egg mixture into cream and whisk.

Pour into four 6-ounce ramekins and place ramekins in a baking dish; fill dish with boiling water halfway up the sides of the dishes.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until centers are barely set.

Cool completely on a rack.

Refrigerate for several hours and up to a couple of days.

When ready to serve, top each custard with about a teaspoon of sugar in a thin layer.

Using a cooking torch, slowly run the flame over the sugar until it melts and browns.

*If you do not have a torch:

Place ramekins in a broiler 2 to 3 inches from heat source and  turn on broiler.

Cook until sugar melts and browns or even blackens a bit, about 5 minutes.

Top with a dab of whipped cream and a few berries.

Serve within two hours.

Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin Steaks, Green Beans with Bacon and Onions, Caesar Salad

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It’s just about Valentine’s Day.  Doesn’t Valentine’s Day always make you think of the great things you and your loved one do for each other?  Don’t the little things make your day feel big?  Indulge me a little as I think about the first Valentine’s Day Will and I spent together way back in 2008. It was the first “fancy dinner” Will ever made for me and it left a lasting impression… this guy can cook!  It definitely made me feel loved. This post is all about that first Valentine’s dinner with three recipes tucked into one post as my Valentine treat to you.

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What’s your favorite Valentine memory? I hope you enjoy one of mine and make this dinner – let me know who you make it for and how they enjoyed it!


Caesar Dressing

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 tsp balsamic or dijon mustard
  • Salt & pepper
  • ½ cup parmesan, shredded

The easiest way to mix this dressing up is in a blender or small food processor.  Simply add all the ingredients to your blender and process until smooth.  If the dressing seems a little thick, add about a tablespoon of  milk or cream at a time until you get the consistency you like best.  I must admit that we do prefer a thicker dressing.

Let me tell you about a few of the ingredients in this dressing:

First of all – don’t be scared of the anchovy paste.  It brings a salty, tangy flavor to the dressing that you can’t really replicate with anything else. We find the paste in a tube near the canned tuna in our  local grocery store.

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For the mustard, we use Turtlefly Fields Balsamic Mustard – a grainy, balsamic vinegar-based mustard.   You can also use a dijon mustard in this dressing.

Full disclosure, my sister and I started Turtlefly Fields a few years ago. We sell pickles and jellies at local craft fairs and Will gets in on the action with this Balsamic Mustard and a few other seasonings (as you will see below).  Come see us this March at Angleton Market Days!

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Finally, be sure to use a quality parmesan for this dressing.  Grate the parmesan fairly small to blend into the dressing, keeping in mind that this, along with the anchovy paste, will be your main source of salt for the  dressing.  Shave a few layers of parmesan to top your salad with as well.

The flavors of the dressing will develop as it sits so let is chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before you want to serve it.  The dressing will keep in the refrigerator up to a week.  If the dressing thickens up as it sits, loosen it up again in your blender or food processor with a little milk or cream.

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Green Beans with Bacon and Onions

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and rinsed
  • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled and halved
  • 4-5 strips bacon, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ¼ cup raw sugar

Trim the green beans by snipping off each end – you did this with Grandma, didn’t you?!  Rinse them under cool water.

Steam the green beans until they are al dente, or still have a good bite to them.  Using my rice cooker, this typically takes about 12-15 minutes.

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This recipe calls for pearl onions, because that’s how Will made it for the that first Valentine’s Day.  To prepare the pearl onions, trim the top and bottom root areas and slit the skin of the onion down one side to easily peel off the papery skin.  Then slice the onion in half.  If you can’t find fresh pearl onions, check the freezer section – the peeling is done for you!

For this instance… we couldn’t find fresh or frozen pearl onions at our local grocery store. We went back to the produce section for the next best thing – shallots.

Saute the bacon on medium high heat until about halfway crisp.

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Add the pearl onions, or shallots, and about half the garlic.  Cook the mixture until the onions and garlic begin to carmelize.

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Add the rest of the garlic and the raw sugar.  If you don’t have raw sugar, use just a little less brown sugar.  Saute the mixture until the sugar begins to melt.

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Toss in the steamed green beans, coating with the bacon mixture. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.  Saute a few minutes until beans are as tender as you like them.

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These green beans are sooooo good and have become a staple in our menu rotation!


Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin Steaks

  • Tenderloin steaks, about 1 1/2 – 2 inches thick, trimmed
  • Steak rub or salt & pepper
  • 2 strips of bacon per steak
  • 2-3 T unsalted butter

You can adjust this recipe to as many steaks as you are cooking.  For our Valentine’s dinner… well, just two 😉

Season each side of the steaks with steak seasoning or salt and pepper. We use Turtlefly Fields Steak Rub.  Will makes this rub… and he is never giving up the recipe.  But, you can come see Turtlefly Fields at Angleton Market Days coming up in March!  We’ll sell you a jar or two!

Let the  steaks rest at room temperature for a couple of hours.

Lay a strip of bacon across a plate or cutting board, then lay another strip slightly overlapping to fit the width of the steaks.

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Season the bacon with freshly ground pepper. Wrap the sides of the steaks with the bacon, pepper side in.  Secure the bacon to the steak with a couple of toothpicks.

Line the bottom of a sheet tray with foil or parchment paper and place a rack on top. Place the bacon-wrapped steaks on the rack and bake at 275 until the steaks reach an internal temperature of 125 for medium-rare, about 45 minutes to one hour. 

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Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat and add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet. Brown the bacon around each side of the steaks.

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Add another tablespoon of butter to the skillet. Sear each the top and bottom of each steak, a couple minutes per side.  Let rest a few minutes before serving.

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Pour a glass of wine and plate up this dinner for your Valentine!  Stay tuned… my favorite dessert to cap off this nice, romantic dinner is coming up!


Full Recipe

Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin Steaks, Green Beans with Bacon and Onions, Caesar Salad

Bacon Wrapped Tenderloin Steaks

  • Tenderloin steaks, trimmed
  • Steak rub or salt & pepper
  • 2 strips of bacon per steak
  • 2-3 T unsalted butter

Season each side of the steaks with steak seasoning or salt and pepper.

Let the  steaks rest at room temperature for a couple of hours.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 275.

Lay a strip of bacon across a plate or cutting board, then lay another strip slightly overlapping to fit the width of the steaks.

Season the bacon with freshly ground pepper.

Wrap the sides of the steaks with the bacon, pepper side in.

Secure the bacon to the steak with a couple of toothpicks.

Line the bottom of a sheet tray with foil or parchment paper and place a rack on top.

Place the bacon-wrapped steaks on the rack and bake until the steaks reach an internal temperature of 125 for medium-rare, about 45 minutes to one hour.

Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat.

Add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet.

Brown the bacon around each side of the steaks.

Sear each the top and bottom of each steak, a couple minutes per side.

Let rest a few minutes before serving.


Green Beans with Bacon and Onion

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and rinsed
  • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled and halved
  • 4-5 strips bacon, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ¼ cup raw sugar

Steam the green beans until al dente, 12-15 minutes.

Over medium heat, saute the bacon until beginning to crisp, season with fresh black pepper.

Add the pearl onions and half the garlic and let the veggies begin to caramelize a few minutes.

Add the rest of the garlic and the raw sugar, tossing as the sugar begins to melt.

Toss in the steamed green beans, coating with the bacon mixture.

Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Saute a few minutes until beans are desired texture.


Caesar Dressing

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 tsp balsamic or dijon mustard
  • Salt & pepper
  • ½ cup parmesan, shredded

Blend ingredients together; adjusting seasoning as necessary.

Keep dressing stored in refrigerator, up to 1 week.