I am really enjoying participating in evilshenanigans’ online Top Chef Just Desserts elimination challenge. I’ve flambéed for the first time, made salted caramel (three times!), made some gooey truffles (another first) and now… now I own a mini torch and made my very first crème brulée.
Since we follow the show’s themes; this week we were challenged with creating a black & white dessert. The cheftestants had been asked to make a bold statement with black and white desserts for a special anniversary party for the Los Angeles Times. I loved watching the episode and was super stoked to put my own spin on it.
Admittedly - I didn’t make the white portion. At least not last night.
I cut it pretty close and started baking late in the evneing: which meant that by the time I actually bruléed the custard (this morning at 7 am), I didn’t have the time (and I was reading a really good book … priorities, priorities) to make a white component… but don’t worry – I have plans to complete this challenge later this week: think a meringue nest, filled with chocolate custard and then bruléed… you can say it with me… SWEET!
Back to the challenge. The crème brulée – I don’t know what made me think it would be difficult to make. It’s not. It’s simple – at least this recipe (adapted from Gale Gand’s chocolate and vanilla) – and although I didn’t have the little Asian spoons Gale recommends using – it still turned out BRILLIANTLY! The custard is super creamy, not too sweet. I think I’d add an extra star anise to the recipe – to punch up that flavour next time… but otherwise, I am pleased as punch about how it all turned out.
semi sweet chocolate star anise crème brûlée
1 1/3 c. heavy cream
1/3 vanilla pod, halved lengthwise
1 piece star anise
1 1/2 ounce semi sweet chocolate, chopped
4 egg yolks
1/4 c. white sugar
1/4 c. coarse sugar (raw or Demerara sugar)
Place your rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 300 F.
Grab a square baking pan (8-inch or 9-inch), as well as a larger baking dish (in which to set the smaller pan into). Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, bring the cream, vanilla pod and star anise to an almost boil. Immediately turn off the heat, add the chocolate and whisk everything so that the chocolate melts.
Set aside and allow the chocolate cream mixture to infuse for about 10 minutes.
(It smells so good. This would make one delicious hot chocolate base. Sigh.)
Meanwhile, bring a tea kettle to a boil (or, if you’re like me, and you don’t have a tea kettle, bring a saucepan to a boil).
While your water is boiling, whisk together the egg yolks and the white sugar (until just combined). Slowly drizzle the yolk mixture into the chocolate cream, whisking constantly.
Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the smaller baking pan.
Put the smaller pan into the larger one and place both in your oven. Slowly (and carefully), pour the boiling water into the larger pan – you want it to reach halfway up the sides of the 8-inch pan.
Bake for 40 minutes: the custard should have just set, but still jiggle a little in the centre. Remove the smaller pan from its bain marie and allow it to cool, about 15 minutes at room temperature (careful not to get water into the pan when you lift it out of the larger pan).
Tightly cover with plastic wrap (don’t allow the wrap to touch the custard) and refrigerate for at least 3 hours (apparently you can make this up to 3 days in advance, keeping it chilled in the fridge until ready to use).
Now for the fun part.
To assemble, spoon out some of the custard into your desired heat-resistant brulée-wear (ceramic Asian spoons – or if you’re like me, a little ceramic bowl), smoothing the surface with a small spatula or butter knife. Return the prepared custards to the fridge and chill them for a further 30 minutes (although this could be done up to 24 hours in advance).
Grab your kitchen torch.
Sprinkle a layer of coarse sugar over the surface of each custard, ensure that the entire surface is covered.
Aim the torch towards the custard.
Light the flame and let the sugar burn. It’s AWESOME.
Let cool for 1 minute before serving; allowing the surface to harden, creating that lovely crack everyone likes to push their spoon through!
It was good. Yes… even at 7 in the morning. This is a recipe I’ll be making again and again… if only to be able to use that torch.
Marielle… get one. You (and Papa) will LOVE it.