Crème Brûlée
Not your usual crème brûlée, this treat includes dulce de leche, crispy phyllo and a sweet berry syrup that all combine to put a new twist on an old favorite. A perfect special occasion dessert, the separate parts of this recipe can be made in advance and assembled just before serving. Enjoy!
Pasrry Chef David Carmichael


Philosophy on food:
"My philosophy on food is to always let the main ingredient shine. I also believe it's important to be thankful for the foods we have."

Formerly of:
Lutéce and Sign of the Dove

Culinary Institute of America, Le Bernardin under François Payard, Daniel under François Payard, breads under Eli Zabar

Essential tools:
Wooden table
Offset serrated knife
Stainless steel ring molds
Oil thermometer
French rolling pins
Rubbers spatulas
Circle cutters

Favorite ingredients:
Butter, eggs, huckleberries, water, sugar, chocolate, vanilla, yeast, flour, maple syrup, every fruit.

Three tips for dessert success:
1. Embrace the most popular dessert ingredients and use your skill to make them shine.
2. Do not overwork yourself to the point of losing perspective.
3. Sit down and eat what you make.

Favorite things to make:
Breads, fruit desserts, ice creams, sorbets, chocolate-I've always loved to work with all kinds of food.

Mentors and Pastry Heroes:
My mentors today are all the people in pastry kitchens I've ever worked with and read about throughout my career. As for heroes, I think we are all heroes for following through on our passion for pastry.

Restaurant Info:
55 East 54th Street
New York, NY 10022
Tel. (212) 759-5941
Fax. (212) 759-6076

8 servings

  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 2 vanilla beans or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 11 egg yolks
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup frozen berries (any kind you like) plus 1 ½ cups water
    or 1 (14-ounce) jar of your favorite jam or jelly, melted and thinned with water
  • ½ cup butter
  • 5 sheets phyllo dough or 8 pre-baked pastry cups
  • 1 cup granulated brown sugar or turbinado sugar

Make the custard: Add the cream to a non-corrosive pan. Split the vanilla beans in half length-wise and using a knife, scrape the beans into the cream. Add 1 ¼ cups sugar and the salt, stir well and place over high heat. Cook until steam begins to rise from the surface, but do not boil.

Beat the yolks with a whisk for 20 seconds. Slowly add the hot cream to the yolks using a ladle, whisking constantly, until the yolks are hot as well. (Test them with your finger.) Pour the remaining hot cream into the yolks and stir together. Strain through a chinois or regular sieve lined with a large piece of damp cheese cloth. Allow it to rest for 20 to 40 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 225ºF. Place a baking pan filled with 2 cups water on the bottom rack of the oven.

Pour the custard slowly onto a half sheet pan (cookie sheet with sides), making sure that the liquid is level. (If it's not, use a balled up piece of aluminum foil to prop it up.) Bake on the top rack for 20 minutes, or until set. To check, jiggle the pan; if the center wiggles like jello, it's ready. Remove the pan from the oven and cool the custard to room temperature. When cool, transfer to the freezer and freeze the custard. Once the custard has frozen, remove from the freezer and use a 3-inch ring cutter to cut out 8 circles. Return the cut circles to the freezer to hold until service.

Make the dulce de leche:
Place an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in a small sauce pot and cover with cold water-enough to cover the can by 2 inches. Place the pot over high heat, and bring the water to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover the pot, and cook for 3 hours 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the can to cool at room temperature for 20 minutes before opening.

Make the fruit syrup or melt your favorite jam or jelly:
(Yield: scant 2 cups) Combine the remaining ½ cup sugar and the water in a non-corrosive pot, and place over high heat for 5 minutes; the sugar syrup should be boiling. Add the frozen fruit, reduce the heat to low, and stew the fruit until soft and all the juices have been rendered, about 5 minutes. Strain and discard the fruit, reserving the syrup. Let stand to cool.

If you elect to use jam or jelly instead, melt it over low heat in a non-corrosive pot and thin slightly with water. Strain and cool.

Make the crust or use store-bought pastry cups:
Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF.

Melt the butter and keep over low heat. Place one sheet of phyllo on a clean work surface and brush lightly with melted butter to completely coat the entire sheet. Place another piece of dough on top, and coat with butter. Continue this process until you have 5 layers of phyllo coated with melted butter.

Using a coffee cup as a guide, cut 8 circles into the dough. Press down to remove (use a knife blade, if necessary.) Place one circle in each of 8 (3-inch) ring molds (or 4 to 8-ounce ramekins), and press down until dough fits mold. Bake phyllo crusts in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and set aside to cool.

To assemble:
Heat a brulée iron, or the bottom of a small sauce pan, over very high heat. (Do not use a torch, it tends to burn the custard and brown the sugar unevenly.)

Spoon 1 tablespoon of the dulce de leche into each of the crusts. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the berry syrup (or melted jam) and then place 1 frozen custard circle on top. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Smooth the top with a palette knife and sprinkle the top with a even thin layer of granulated brown sugar. Sear the sugar with the hot iron or sauce pot and serve.

   Published: September 2004