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Monday, May 27, 2024

Crème Brûlée

I absolutely love making gourmet food simpler for the everyday cook. A dessert that has long been in my repertoire, but is usually daunting to most, is crème brûlée. The aesthetics are fantastic, and the texture simply decadent. For those unfamiliar with the dish, crème brûlée is custard with a caramelized sugar crust. The flavor combination possibilities are numerous, making this dish one of my favorites to experiment with. And of course I have no shortage of guinea pigs this time of year!

This time around, I chose to give the combination of dark chocolate’s bitter creaminess and dried chili’s smoky pepper spice a try. Having experienced this mixture of flavors before in bars of chocolate and brownies, I was curious as to how successful it would be in custard. The results speak for themselves. So why not whip up a batch and let me know what you think?

Equipment needed:
•  Whisk
•  Rubber spatula
•  Non-metal (this is important!) mixing bowl, preferably one with a pour spout.
•  8-10 ceramic ramekins (available in most department store kitchen sections and at Schnucks)

•  1 cup sugar (plus extra for the crust)
•  1 cup dark chocolate, finely chopped or grated
•  ¼ cup cocoa powder
•  1 cinnamon stick
•  1 tsp pure vanilla extract
•  1 dried chili; stemmed and chopped (I prefer ancho for its smokiness)
•  1 quart heavy whipping cream
•  5 eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine chili, cinnamon, and cream in a heavy saucepot and bring to a boil. Remove cinnamon carefully, reduce heat to low, add cocoa and chocolate, whisk until smooth. Remove chocolate mixture from the heat. In a large non-metal bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar, mixing well. Slowly whisk in the chocolate mixture. At this point, you’ll want to prep your baking dishes. Place the empty ramekins in the baking dishes and fill the space around them with water about halfway up their sides. Proceed to fill the ramekins with the custard. Essentially, what you’ve created is a water bath for the custard in order for it to cook evenly and thoroughly. If you forget this step, you’ll end up with chocolate scrambled eggs! Bake for approximately 40 minutes until the center has just begun to set. Refrigerate six to eight hours or overnight.

When preparing to serve, use either a broiler or a torch. For safety reasons, I’ll stick with the broiler method even though I much prefer to use a torch (if you decide to go with the torch for caramelization process, do yourself a favor and just use a propane/butane torch from the hardware store). Using about 1 tablespoon per serving, sprinkle sugar over the custard to coat the entire surface. Place the ramekins under the broiler for about two minutes until the sugar just begins to turn golden brown. Once chilled, enjoy this lovely chocolate favorite!

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