Creme brulee is unquestionably the most popular dessert I have seen in my career. It has the ability to lend itself to any application. It is traditionally French while still seeming Southern, it's very food-forward, and the perfect piece de resistance for any cook. If you are keen on chemicals or gelatin, you can shape a creme brulee any way you want. Without these chemicals you can still shape it to any container you have and flavor it with your favorite herb, spice, or fruit. I have made everything from a classic creme brulee to chocolate, cinnamon, green tea, bourbon, cascabel pepper, and even banana. I've frozen them, turned them into ice cream, and served them in little tea cups for passing at cocktail parties.
2 cups heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
Heat the cream in a thick-bottomed pot on medium heat. If you heat it too fast you may scorch the fat on the bottom of the pan and lessen the quality of your cream. Separately, whisk together the yolks and sugar until thick and pale in color. Add any flavorings to this egg mixture and mix until well incorporated. Once the milk is scalding, pour slowly over the eggs, whisking continuously. Let set for about a minute. Whisk gently and strain into a baking vessel. Place the vessel into a pan that will accommodate water without leaking. Pour enough water to cover half of your vessel and wrap the larger pan with plastic wrap and then with aluminum foil. This will keep the creme brulee moist. Bake in the prepared pan between 250 and 300F. Once the center is barely loose, remove from heat, remove the plastic wrap, and set the creme brulee (still in the water bath) out to cool to room temperature. Creme brulee can be stored refrigerated for several days, but is susceptible to cracking if cooled too quickly. Just before serving, top with sugar and gently brulee.
Quick notes on bruleed sugar: It may take some practice to achieve the right amount of sugar to brulee evenly. Tap the vessel and toss out the excess sugar. Light your torch and turn it down just to have about a half inch flame. Remember the heat from the torch will be far in from of the actual flame. People have a tendency to wave their torch around like they are trying to charm a snake. This is unnecessary! Slowly move your torch across the sugar in a fluid motion. It may take several passes of the torch to achieve the dark golden brown sugar crisp.