Playing with Fire Creme Brulee

Adapted from The New York Times, March 27, 2009

Ingredients

2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar, more for topping
1 Tablespoon favorite liqueur (optional)
1/2 cup berries of your choice (optional)

Directions
Heat oven to 325 degrees.

In a saucepan, combine cream and vanilla bean and cook over low heat just until hot. Let sit for a few minutes, then discard vanilla bean. (OR if using vanilla extract, add it now.)  At this point you can add about a Tablespoon of any favorite liqueur for extra flavor. Or not.
   
In a bowl, beat yolks and sugar together until light.

Stir about a quarter of the cream into this mixture, then pour sugar-egg mixture back into cream and stir.

If you'd like your creme brulee to be fruity you could put a handful of berries in the bottom of each ramekin and proceed as directed below. 
Or not.

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 about 30 minutes, or until centers are barely set. Cool. Ramekins can be wrapped tightly and refrigerated for a couple of days.
   
When ready to serve, top each custard with 2-3 teaspoons of sugar in a thin layer.

Fire up torch and hold the flame close to the surface until sugar begins to melt quickly.  Move the flame in small circles over the surface of the custard, heating the sugar until it is evenly melted and golden.

OR

Place ramekins in a broiler 2 to 3 inches from heat source. Turn on broiler. Cook until sugar melts and browns or even blackens a bit, about 5 minutes.

Let sit for a minute or two until sugar hardens and serve.

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