Beating egg yolks with sugar until pale and fluffy is the key to the smooth texture in this rich, classic French dessert, as made by Dennis Wist, father of Saveur Art Associate Allie Wist.
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 12 large egg yolks
In a medium saucepan, combine the cream with 1⁄4 cup of the sugar, the vanilla, and salt, and then bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook the cream, stirring, until it just begins to bubble at the edges, then remove the pan from the heat.
In a large bowl, whisk 1⁄4 cup of the sugar with the egg yolks until pale yellow, about 3 minutes. While whisking, slowly pour about 1⁄4 cup of the warm cream into the yolks, then scrape the eggs into the saucepan and stir with the cream until smooth.
Heat the oven to 285°. Place a paper towel in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, and arrange eight 6-oz. ramekins inside the pan. Divide the custard evenly among the ramekins, and then pour enough boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake the custards until they’re set but slightly loose in center, about 35 minutes. Remove the baking pan from the oven, and then, using tongs, lift the ramekins from the hot water and transfer to a wire rack. Let the custards cool completely, then refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours.
To serve, sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of the remaining sugar evenly over the surface of each custard. Using a kitchen blowtorch (amazon.com), the sugar until bubbly and dark brown. Let the custards stand for 1 minute to allow the sugar to harden before serving.