I can't believe that I've been posting recipes for about six months now, and I haven't included one of my all-time favorite desserts--creme brulee. Creme brulee intimidates people, I suppose, because it's generally found only in nicer restaurants, but it really isn't difficult to make.
1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean (or 3 teaspoons vanilla extract)
4 tablespoons sugar
8 egg yolks
3/4 to 1 cup brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large saucepan scald cream with vanilla bean. Add sugar and stir until completely dissolved. In a large bowl beat egg yolks until light lemon color, then stir hot cream mixture carefully into yolks with a pinch of salt. Strain mixture into a 10-inch shallow baking dish. Place dish in a pan of hot water (make sure no water gets in the custard mixture) and bake in a 350 degrees oven for 50-60 minutes. Custard is cooked when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean or almost completely clean. Cool, then refrigerate until chilled.
Push brown sugar through a sieve and spread on top of custard, making a layer about 1/4-inch thick. It must be as smooth as possible. Broil about 4-6 inches from broiler until sugar has caramelized; turn dish as necessary so sugar caramelizes evenly. This process takes about 2 to 4 minutes. Cool before serving. Serves 8 to 12.