These fluffy and light custards have just a hint of spice and sit atop your favorite apples sauteed with spices. They may look like your average, everyday creme brulee but trust me, they are anything but ordinary!
Preheat the oven to 325 F and move the rack to the center of the oven.
First, start by prepping your apples. How many apples you need to peel and cut is really going to depend on the type of apples that you want to use. I like to use Honeycrisp Apples for this recipe, and it usually takes just under two whole apples.
Core, peel and cut the apples into small pieces and toss them into a skillet with the cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. (Or you can substitute about 1 1/2 teaspoons of "Apple Pie Spice" in place of these). Saute over low to medium heat.
As the apples are sauteed, there should not be a lot of juices or liquids, and the spices will coat each piece nicely.
Once the apples are done, spoon equal amounts into your ramekins. Make sure that they are lying in one layer and not sitting on top of each other. You're looking for just a thin layer of apples at the bottom of these ramekins. Then arrange your ramekins into large baking pans (I have a 11x15x2 cake pan that I like to use). You might need two pans.
Meanwhile, pour the cream into a sauce pan and add the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick. Bring the cream to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally. It will take about 10-15 minutes for the vanilla and the cinnamon flavors to infuse through the cream.
While the cream simmers, start whisking the egg yolks with the salt. Slowly add the granulated sugar.
When it's ready, slowly pour the cream into the eggs, making sure to continue whisking the entire time.
Use a spoon to scrape off any bubbles or foam that formed on top of your eggs and cream.
Ladle the custard into your ramekins over the apples. Some of the smaller chunks of apples might float up into the custard, and that's okay. I think that gives them a nice, rustic look.
***If you need to use two pans to fit all the ramekins, you can wait to pour the custard into the second "batch" until right before they are ready to go into the oven... But I have noticed that it really doesn't make much difference if you wait or pour it in and wait.
While the cake pan is sitting on the oven rack, pour hot water into the cake pan so that it fills up to about halfway up the sides of the ramekins (be careful not to get any water into the ramekins or the custard won't set correctly).
Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour. I like to start checking around the 40 minute mark. You're looking for the custards to be set, so they won't jiggle very much when you move the pan. There might be a slight, golden hue to the top of the custard.
Carefully move the custards from the water bath and into the refrigerator. Chill uncovered for 3 hours.
After the 3 hours pass, use plastic wrap to cover the custards. Make sure that the plastic wrap actually touches the top of the custard - which will ensure that no air is getting through.
At this point, you can serve whenever you're ready. The custards will keep for about a week in the refrigerator like this.
To serve, top each ramekin with 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of the turbinado sugar. You can tilt the ramekins to spread the sugar out evenly. Then, torch them. Make sure you hold the blowtorch about 2-3 inches away from the sugar - and keep it moving.
*** Once you've caramelized the top, you can place the custards back into the refrigerator for up to 10-15 minutes. You really should serve them right away, though; after a couple minutes, the caramelized sugar will start to soften and you'll lose some of that crispy drama.