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Chocolate Creme Brulee

May 15, 2008

The semester is finally over, and I have spent this first week of summer break being very happily lazy. There are a ton of projects I want to work on this summer, including a redesign of this here blog, but right now I am thoroughly enjoying not having anything to do. And what have I been doing with all this free time? Besides re-reading Harry Potter for the seventy-second time, and sleeping in, and taking really long walks in the lovely May weather, I have been, of course, cooking.

Last summer my housemate, Miss Amelia Bedelia, bought me a lovely creme brulee set, which, much to her chagrin, sat unused in the pantry all year long. With Amelia getting ready to leave us for the summer I realized the only fitting and proper thing to do was to break out the torch and make some creme brulee. I also recently received, from the ever-generous folks at Blake Makes and Amano Chocolates, several bars of incredibly rich, perfectly bittersweet dark chocolate. Amelia loves chocolate, Amelia loves creme brulee, so clearly, chocolate creme brulee was the answer.

I searched around for awhile for the perfect recipe, and eventually settled on Cat Cora’s, from the Food Network website, with only some minor alterations. The original recipe was annoyingly vague, so I supplemented with bits and pieces I found elsewhere, and hoped for the best. And the final product? Out-of-control rich, smooth, chocolate-y, and indulgent. All three of us were swooning into sugar induced fits of delight. While there are a few things I might have done a little differently, overall I must say it was a success.

Chocolate Creme Brulee

  • 3/4 c. heavy cream
  • 1/2 c. whipping cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, sliced open
  • 4 ounces of dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 T. sugar
  • a bit more sugar for torching

Preheat the oven to 300F.

Set up a double boiler contraption on the stove: I usually just set a small glass bowl into a sauce pan with about an inch of water in it, and let the water simmer under the bowl. This time I used a smaller sauce pan in hopes that it would make the bowl easier to remove, but it let a lot of steam escape. I clearly have further experimentation to do to find the perfect double boiler contraption.

Pour the cream into the top part of the double boiler and add the vanilla bean. Heat the cream vanilla mixture for about 15 minutes–long enough to soften the bean a bit and heat the cream without letting it boil. Remove the bean, and stir in the chopped up chocolate. Stir the chocolate cream mixture until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth, remove it from the heat, and pour the chocolate cream mixture into a container that will be easy to pour from (like a measuring cup with a spout and a handle).

In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together. Slowly pour the hot chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking continuously. Pour it all back into the top of the double boiler contraption, and let it heat, whisking and whisking, for about another five minutes or so. The original recipe says to cook it until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon, but mine coated the back of the spoon before it even went back on the double boiler, so I just cooked it until it was heated through.

Now pour it all back into your pouring container. That might seem like a lot of unnecessary transferring of custard, but I found it much easier to pour the custard into the little dishes using something designed for pouring than attempting to pour it from a mixing bowl without making a mess. So it’s just a suggestion, is all. If you’re adept at pouring from a mixing bowl, by all means, save yourself the extra washing up.

Place your creme brulee dishes inside of a baking dish with sides at least 2 inches high. Carefully pour the custard mixture into the brulee dishes. I had just enough to fit into four little dishes. Place the baking dish into the oven, and carefully add enough water to come halfway up the sides of the custard dishes. Then bake the custard for about an hour. I accidentally screwed up when I set the timer and then lost track of time, so they baked for a little more than an hour, which might have contributed to their extreme density. But they were still delicious, so clearly that didn’t hurt them too much.

Once they’re set, remove the baking dish from the oven and set it aside to cool. Cover the baking dish and refrigerate the custards. This is part of where the Cat Cora recipe was really vague, and I found a lot of variation in other recipes, as well. Some say at least an hour. Some say at least four hours. Some say overnight. I refrigerated them for over 24 hours, which might have been too long. If I were advising, I would probably suggest about four hours. But what do I know, really?

After the creme brulee has been refrigerated as long as you deem necessary, you get to do the fun part: the torching! Sprinkle a bit of sugar on top of each one. The original recipe suggests a tablespoon per custard dish, but that seems like a lot to me. I just added a thin layer, trying to make sure the sugar was evenly dispersed across the top. Then torch away! Try to move the torch evenly (and apparently in a circular motion, according to the instructions that came with my set), and torch until the sugar is completely melted and bubbling on top. I probably could have torched a little longer, because I felt like it was still very granulated, and it didn’t crack as satisfyingly as I wanted. But Amelia said it was perfect, and she’s had way more brulee experience than I, so again, what do I know?

This stuff really was intensely awesome. It ended up much more dense and fudgy than I expected, and as I mentioned, the top didn’t quite get that crackly finish I wanted, but it was my first brulee experience, after all. And Amelia was transported into ecstasy with every bite, so I certainly did something right.

I have one more bar of the delicious Amano chocolate to experiment with, and I can’t decide quite what to do with it. Any suggestions? I’m trying to think of something particularly photogenic: I just bought a fancy pants new camera and of course I am now obsessing about improving my photographic skillz. I can’t really tell if these pictures are noticeably better than the pictures I have posted in the past, but of course, I like to think they are much, much lovelier. Sadly, though, as fancy as the camera is, it can’t improve the crappy lighting situation in my kitchen. Sigh.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 16, 2008 10:33 am

    I had the pleasure of tasting this scrumptious treat and I must say it was both pleasing to the eye and indulgent for the palate.

    I give it a hearty “Dang!”

  2. May 22, 2008 7:53 pm

    And yet you didn’t eat the whole thing. I can’t take you anywhere. Heh. Well, at least Amelia got to enjoy the rest of it before she left. And thanks for the Dang!! Coming from you, that is a superb accolade. I hope you’re planning to hang out at the JJ this weekend mister.

  3. Daniel Paddock permalink
    February 17, 2009 5:50 pm

    I am so glad you posted this blog. I tried making Cat Cora’s chocolate creme brulee for this Valentines and it turned out horribly due to the EXTREMELY vague instructions. Ended up with a hard chocolate, scrambled mess after apparently overcooking the mixture. I’m going to try your method tonight for my girlfriends birthday!!! THANKS AGAIN!!!

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