Last night we had my parents over for dinner and I wanted to make something good for dessert, and I also wanted to use my little mini blowtorch and ramekins, so I decided to brave creme brulee. I'd heard all sorts of stories about it not working out, so I was prepared to screw it up.
Making any kind of custard is very challenging, because you have to have the temperature of the heavy cream at just right when you combine it with the egg yolk and sugar mixture, or it will begin to cook the yolks - and all is lost. You also have to make sure to strain out any skins from the simmering cream, or you can get a lumpy consistency. Once the mixture is complete and poured into the ramekins, you set them into a baking pan of scalding hot water and then place the whole thing into the oven. The water regulates the temperature of the ramekins so that the top and bottom won't cook faster than the center.
It is very important to take them out of the oven before they are entirely "done", meaning while the centers still jiggle like gelatin, because the ramekin will hold sufficient heat to continue the baking process after they have been removed from the heat. Once you have the consistency you want (you should be able to slide a knife down the side and pull it out clean) you set the ramekins in a bed of ice water to stop the cooking process. After they have cooled to room temperature, they go into the refrigerator. The recipe calls for 8 hours to 2 days to set, and I am sure it would be very yummy and firm like that - but we didn't have that kind of time. 3 hours later they came out of the oven, a thin coating of granulated sugar went on top, and we torched them to caramel perfection.
A note on the torch: you always want to keep that bad boy moving, or you get little parts that are burned instead of tasty.