Cornstarch keeps the crème brûlée from separating, allowing you to make the custard up to two days before serving it. This dessert is wonderful served with a compote of starfruit, papaya, pineapple, and strawberries.
Heat the oven to 300°F. Sift the sugar and cornstarch together into a medium bowl. Whisk in the egg yolks. Whisk in the cream and coconut milk until blended. Pour the mixture through a fine strainer and into a large measuring cup with a pouring spout.
Set four 6-oz. ramekins in a deep baking dish or roasting pan. Divide the custard evenly among the ramekins. Set the pan on the middle rack of the oven. Carefully pour hot water into the pan until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 30 minutes and then tent the pan loosely with foil (if it’s tight, the custard will curdle) and bake until the centers of the custard shudder gently when the ramekins are tapped, another 25 minutes (start checking at 20 minutes).
Remove the pan from the oven. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and cool slightly before refrigerating for several hours or overnight.
Just before serving, sprinkle each custard with a thin layer of fine sugar, about 1 tsp. per custard. Caramelize the sugar by using either of the methods described below.
For the torch method:
Use a slow, sweeping motion to guide the flame directly on the surface of the custard; the nozzle should be 2 to 3 inches from the surface so the flame just licks the sugar. The topping is done when the entire surface is a glossy brown.
A small blowtorch gives you total control and works quickly.
For the broiler method:
Position the oven rack so the custards will be 2 to 3 inches from the broiler, and heat the broiler. Return the ramekins to the baking dish. Fill the dish with ice water almost to the top of the custards. Position the pan under the heat source. The sugar should begin to caramelize in 3 to 4 min.; watch carefully so they don’t burn.
The broiler will also do the trick. An ice bath keeps the custard cool while the top browns.
Make Ahead Tips
The custards can be made up to one day ahead and refrigerated, but don't create the sugar crust until just before serving or else it will soften.
nutrition information (per serving):
Photo: Scott Phillips