Dark Mocha Crème Brulee
Tips: Boys and girls, its time to bring out the heavy
artillery! Im talking about a propane torch, which is what
I use to caramelize the sugar topping on each of these custards.
I had never used a propane torch before I developed this recipe,
but rather to my surprise the experience was a blast. I made crème
brulee for a couple of weeks after Id got the recipe to my
liking just so I could keep using the torch! You can order palm-size
torches from gourmet catalogs, but theyre rather expensive
and usually use butane, a far dirtier-burning fuel that I dont
like to use indoors at any time. I got my propane torch, which is
full-sized, from a local hardware store. When you use the torch,
please read and follow the manufacturers instructions very
carefully! I know that most crème brulee recipes for home
cooks instruct you to caramelize the sugar topping under a broiler,
but I live in an apartment and my broiler is untrustworthy, so I
use this method instead. Do not substitute brown sugar for the granulated
sugar in the topping! I tried this, and when the torch was applied
the brown sugar caught fire almost immediately. In addition, if
you want to use a broiler to caramelize the topping, youll
have to bake the custards in individual, ovenproof ramekins (such
as miniature souffle dishes); custard cups cannot be used under
a broiler as far as I know.
The caramelized sugar topping is pretty, even against
the dark custard. Youll know its there, too, especially
when you dig in and it shatters. After the sugar topping has been
caramelized, some people like to serve crème brulee right
away, but I dont. I think the custard is best when very cold,
so Ill put the brulee back into the fridge for at least an
hour (the custards can stand in the fridge for up to 6 hours after
theyre topped, as long as they remain uncovered). The custards
themselves can be made a day or two in advance, then kept, covered,
in the refrigerator. If any condensation forms on the custard surface,
blot it up gently with a paper towel before applying the topping.
This dessert is very rich and very dark chocolate, and it would
be best after a light meal.
- 6 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- Pinch salt
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 5 egg yolks, from eggs graded large
- 1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
- 3/4 tsp. instant espresso powder
- 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. milk
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla
- 12 teaspoons granulated sugar
Have ready 6 ovenproof glass custard cups, each of 6 ounce capacity.
Tear off a square of foil to completely cover the top of each cup,
folding any excess down over the outer edge of the cup. If any foil
overhang comes more than about 1 inch down the side of any cup,
trim it so it is 1 inch or less. Have ready a baking pan at least
1-1/2 inches deep, into which all 6 cups can fit without touching
one another or the sides of the pan; youll also need enough
simmering water to fill the pan to a depth of 1 inch. If the baking
pan is aluminum, sprinkle about 1 teaspoon cream of tartar into
the bottom to prevent discoloration. Have ready a fine-meshed strainer
and a heatproof measuring cup or pitcher of at least 3-1/2 cup capacity.
Set all aside. Adjust rack to center of oven; preheat oven to 300
In small bowl, combine finely chopped chocolate and salt. In small
saucepan over low heat, heat cream just to a simmer, stirring occasionally;
remove from heat. Pour about half of hot cream over chocolate. Let
stand for a minute or two, then stir or whisk very gently until
smooth. (If necessary, place bowl of chocolate over simmering water
on low heat--water should not touch bottom of bowl--and stir often
until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat
and hot water.) Gradually stir or whisk in remaining cream. Mixture
should be warm, not hot.
Place a medium heatproof bowl on a pot holder or folded kitchen
towel. Into the bowl, place the egg yolks; beat with fork until
well-combined. Beating constantly with fork, gradually add warm
chocolate mixture to yolks.
In small, heavy-bottomed, nonaluminum saucepan, combine 1/3 cup
plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar, cocoa powder, and espresso powder.
With small whisk, whisk well to combine. Add 2 Tbsp. milk (reserve
remainder); mix well to make a smooth paste. Gradually stir in remaining
milk. Set over medium heat. Stir very frequently just until mixture
reaches a simmer. Remove from heat.
Stirring chocolate-yolk mixture constantly, very gradually add
hot milk mixture. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl with rubber spatula
after about half of hot milk mixture has been added, then continue
adding hot milk mixture, stirring chocolate-yolk mixture constantly,
until all has been incorporated. Stir in vanilla. Custard will be
on the thin side.
Place fine-meshed strainer over heatproof measuring cup or small
pitcher; strain custard into pitcher (you should have about 3 cups).
Divide custard evenly between custard cups, then cover each custard
cup with a foil cover.
Place baking pan on oven rack; carefully pour in enough simmering
water to form a thin layer on the bottom. Carefully transfer filled,
covered custard cups to baking pan; gently add more simmering water
to baking pan, pouring it carefully around (not on top of) cups,
to a depth of 1 inch (you might want to measure the water depth,
as too much water will slow baking time).
Bake 45 minutes. After about 30 minutes, check baking pan; if more
simmering water is needed to maintain the 1 inch depth, add it now.
After 45 minutes, CAREFULLY remove baking pan from oven--it will
be hot and heavy. Using pot holders, remove each custard cup individually
from the water (it might help to use a spatula to do this) and transfer
to a cooling rack. Remove foil covers from custards. Custard tops
will be shiny and very dark; when tapped gently, custards will seem
just set. Cool briefly at room temperature, then chill until very
cold (at least 4 hours), covering tightly with foil covers or plastic
wrap after 2 or 3 hours. Chill until needed.
In preparation for the topping of the crèmes brulees, please
read manufacturers instructions for your propane torch at
least twice. Make sure the area in which youll work is well-ventilated,
but not drafty. Assemble the torch (if necessary) just before use.
Sprinkle 2 tsp. of granulated sugar on top of each custard as evenly
as possible. Take your time doing this. Do not sprinkle sugar randomly,
then tap the custard cup to try to distribute the sugar, as too
much sugar will settle toward the middle if you do. Place sugared
custards on a stable, flat surface with a lot of cleared space around
it. I place mine on a sturdy metal cooling rack on top of a 6 quart,
Ignite the torch. You only need a flame a few inches long, but
it should be blue, not orange. Play the flame lightly but completely
over the sugar on top of each custard; the nozzle of the torch should
be several inches above the sugared surfaces at all times. When
the sugar on one custard starts to smoke, move to another area or
another custard; you can always go back over an area, and you need
to give the sugar a few seconds to react to the flames. Youre
trying to caramelize the sugar to a rich golden brown, but not burn
it. If necessary, shut the torch off for a minute, then check the
custards to see which areas require more flame before re-igniting
the torch to caramelize those areas. Even with your best effort
to keep the sugar topping as even as possible, some of the sugar
will be blown around on the custard surface a bit, so youll
get areas of heavier and lighter topping on any one custard--OK.
When youre finished caramelizing the toppings, shut off the
torch and put it aside in a safe area to cool off. Allow the custards
to cool for several minutes, then carefully, using pot holders (the
top portion of the cups will get hot), replace the cups in the fridge.
Chill at least 1 hour, uncovered (or up to 6 hours), before serving.
Yield: 6 servings
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