Crunchy, creamy, sweet and a little burnt—who doesn’t like crème brûlée? The iconic French dessert is actually easy to make, and, if you do it right, entails firing up a blow torch for a little drama. This recipe, from French Feasts: 299 Traditional Recipes for Family Meals & Gatherings by Stéphane Reynaud (Stewart, Tabori & Chang), is simple and elegant.

Crème Brûlée

Serves 8

4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
8 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean
1/2 cup light brown sugar

1. Whisk together the egg yolks and [white] sugar until pale and thick.

2. Heat the cream and add the split vanilla bean. [Once the cream started to bubble around the edges, I took it off the heat and let it steep for 15 minutes.]

3. Off the heat, combine the cream and egg yolk mixture; then pour into the ramekins. Discard the vanilla bean.

4. Cook in a water bath in a preheated 315ºF oven for 30 minutes, then allow to cool. [After 30 minutes, the custard was barely set in the center, so once the ramekins cooled to room temperature, I refrigerated them for about four hours, which helped them firm up.]

5. Sprinkle the [brown] sugar on top. Then caramelize under a hot broiler or using a kitchen blowtorch. Serve immediately.