I think the easiest and possibly least stressful way to caramelise the sugar topping is with a blowtorch. However, as not everyone owns one - and calling out the plumber at nine in the evening could prove a tad expensive - just place the sugared puddings under a very hot pre-heated grill until golden and bubbling (watch them like a hawk, though). Remember to leave the desserts to rest for five minutes to let the sugar harden and the ramekins cool down.

Ingredients:
  • Serves six
  • 500ml (18fl oz.) double cream 1 fat vanilla pod
  • approx. 100g (4oz) caster sugar (plus extra for the topping) 5 egg yolks (medium)
  • 2 whole eggs (medium)
Method:
  • Pre-heat the oven to 100C
  • Pour the cream into a saucepan and add the sugar. Split the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape the seeds into the cream together with the split pod. Bring to a boiling point, then lower the heat and simmer gently for five minutes.
  • Beat the egg yolks and whole eggs in a large heat-proof bowl until well broken up. Bring the cream back to a rolling boil, then pour it over the eggs, whisking all the time until thickened – this indicates that the eggs have begun to cook slightly.
  • Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl and fill six ramekins about two thirds full. Place the ramekins in a large roasting tray and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Place on the centre shelf of the oven and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the custards are just set and still a bit wobbly in the middle. Remove from the roasting tray and allow to cool to room temperature.
  • Place in the fridge for an hour until completely set. Remove from the fridge half an hour before you intend to serve the brulees.
  • When you’re ready to serve, sprinkle one level teaspoon of caster sugar evenly over the surface of each crème, then caramelise with a blowtorch. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes, then enjoy one of France’s greatest contributions to eating pleasure.