I’m not sure it gets more classic than crème brûlée. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the classic—cool custard flecked with specks of vanilla bean and made thick and butter-colored by the addition of golden egg yolks—I think it’s time we take a step away from vanilla and get a little more creative.
All you need to do to make this crowd-pleasing dessert is create a custard using cream, sugar, and yolks but what you add to said custard is completely up your whim. This time around, I opted to flavor my custard with toasted pistachios and honey. The resulting dessert is warm, nutty, and wonderfully floral. And I still used vanilla bean because I’m weak for those flecks. —Ashley Rodriguez
In a food processor, grind the pistachios until finely chopped, taking care not to create a paste.
In a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream, vanilla bean, honey, salt, and chopped pistachios. Bring the mixture to a simmer, give it a stir, then let it steep for 30 minutes so that those amazing flavors can infuse with the cream.
In a medium bowl, give the egg yolks a gentle whisk.
Preheat your oven to 350° F, then place 4 small oven-safe dishes or ramekins in a roasting pan filled with enough water to reach halfway up the sides of the little dishes.
Slowly add the warm cream mixture to the eggs while whisking. Use a fine mesh sieve to strain the cream and yolk mixture into a bowl.
Divide the custard between the four dishes (about 1/2 cup for each serving).
Carefully transfer the roasting dish to the oven and bake until the custard is just set around the edges but still a bit jiggly in the middle, about 20 to 25 minutes
Let the custards cool in the pan, then refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.
To add that deep, caramelized cap, sprinkle a thin, even layer of sugar on one of the custards. Use a torch to melt the sugar. You don’t want to add color at this point. Add another thin layer of sugar and again melt using a torch. The third round, add a slightly thicker, even layer of sugar, then torch it so that it's deeply caramel in color.
Repeat the process to the rest of the custards and serve right away.
The custards can be made 3 days in advance, but the torching should be done just before serving. It's a really great way to show-off to your guests and add some entertainment to the evening.