Friday, September 30, 2011

Creme Brulee for Chocolate Lovers

Yes, creme brulee is delicious, but its vanilla flavor also tends to be a bit predictable.

If you're interested in taking this dessert up a notch, it's pretty easy to adjust the flavor of the custard that lies beneath your burnt sugar crust. You could go with pumpkin (surprisingly velvety and luxurious), amaretto-flavored, or as in this dessert, a rich chocolate.

The cooking process couldn't be easier.  (Full recipe can be found here, thanks to Martha.)

Start by preheating the oven to 250 (this one's low and slow).  Then, in a medium saucepan, heat 2 cups of heavy cream and 1/4 cup of sugar over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the cream is simmering, but not boiling. Whisk in 3 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, either chopped or you can cheat as I did and use chocolate chips.

Next, in a separate bowl, whisk 3 tbsp of sugar with 5 egg yolks, then slowly add the chocolate cream mixture--slowly, so as not to create scrambled eggs. You want to gently bring up the temperature of the eggs in a process known as tempering. Strain the final mixture through a sieve into a 4-cup measuring cup if you have one.  (If you don't, it's well worth the 7-buck investment, as it makes pouring the mixture into the ramekins so much easier.)

Divide the custard evenly into 4 4-oz ramekins (I actually used 5 ramekins that are a bit smaller), and place them into a roasting pan.  Fill the pan with boiling water until it goes halfway up the sides of the ramekins, then bake until partially set, about an hour.

The only tricky part is having the courage to recognize what "partially set" means. Your custards will jiggle quite a bit, but they'll have a rubbery skin on the top. Take them out of the water, let them get to room temp, then chill for at least an hour, or even overnight, in the fridge, wrapped in plastic.  (This is a great make-ahead dessert.)

When you're ready to serve, remove the plastic, dab off any water you can from the top, sprinkle with sugar, and either broil until the sugar gets "bruleed" or use a mini-kitchen torch to burn up the sugar.

The custard tastes much like a rich chocolate mousse with just a hint of darkness from the bittersweet chocolate.  I suppose you could use dark or semisweet too to adjust the flavor, but I'm more than happy with bittersweet.

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