Crème Brûlée Filled Strawberries

1 cup/232 g heavy cream

1/3 cup/80 g half and half

Seeds from 1/4 vanilla bean or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 egg yolks

1/4 cup/50 g granulated sugar

30 to 40 medium strawberries, capped, hollowed and pointed ends trimmed flat

Additional granulated sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 300F. 

Heat the cream, half and half, and vanilla bean (or vanilla extract) in a medium saucepan over medium heat just to a boil. Immediately turn off the heat. Set aside to infuse for 10 minutes.

Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a large bowl until just combined. Whisking constantly, gradually pour in the hot cream mixture. Pour the mixture into a 10x10-inch baking and remove the vanilla bean.

Place the 10x10-inch pan in a large roasting pan and pour in hot water until it reaches halfway up the custard pan. Bake in the center of the oven until the custard is set but still has a slight wobble (it will cook more as it cools), about 55-65 minutes. Remove it from the water bath and let it cool. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until chilled, about 2 hours. 

Fill each berry with a spoonful of creme brulee. Store the filled berries in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve them. 

Just before serving, place a spoonful of sugar on top of each berry and use a chef's torch to caramelize the sugar. You can also caramelize the sugar under the oven broiler, just be sure to get it good and hot before you put the strawberries in. The strawberries will break down under heat, so they should only be allowed to stay in the oven for 2-4 minutes, just long enough for the tops to caramelize. Keep a sharp eye on them, it won't take long! Let the berries stand for 5 minutes to let the caramelized sugar harden.

Note: The longer the berries stand at room temperature, the more likely they are to weep a little berry juice around the bottoms. I suggest serving these in paper liners or cute candy cups. They'll keep things tidy and disguise drips of berry juice.