Chocolate Crème Brûlée
The French classic - is there any dessert like it? Well actually, quite a few as it happens! There’s some debate about the origins of this dessert. Some say it is British, being created at Trinity College, Cambridge (where it was known as ‘Trinity Cream’). There’s a similar one in Catalonia, ‘Crema Catalana’, which is quite different in composition: it’s not as rich, flavoured with cinnamon and orange, and has caramel crust, unlike the big mama.
A crème brûlée is a delight to make, and I’m not just being light-hearted. It simply involves making a custard: an essential skill to have as a home cook. Making a custard comfortably and confidently will open the door to making many desserts at home, especially French ones!
I wouldn’t want to bore you with just a simple creme brûlée recipe - I’m confident that even the most nervous home cook can go a step further and make this decadent pudding with ease. I find with cooking, it’s much more exciting to make things you don’t find in shops or restaurants. It makes you an explorer. The custard base is an excellent canvas for dark chocolate, bringing out the bold, earthy flavours and aromas of good-quality chocolate. Use the best you can afford. The cocoa butter in the chocolate sets the custard into a sensational, silky pudding, sealed beneath a pane of crunchy, torched caramel - the latter being the fun part!
CHOCOLATE Crème Brûlée
- 300ml Double Cream
- 4 Egg Yolks
- 60g caster sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
- 150ml full-fat Milk
- 75g Best Quality Dark Chocolate (75% cocoa minimum)
- 1 vanilla pod or 1 teaspoon of Vanilla Bean Paste
- To begin, place the 300ml of double cream and 150ml of milk into a saucepan and heat until steaming hot, but not boiling.
- While the cream and milk are heating, place 4 egg yolks into a mixing bowl along with the 60g of caster sugar. Whisk everything together until golden and smooth.
- When the cream and milk are steaming hot, remove from the heat and slowly pour the mixture into the egg yolks and sugar, whisking constantly as you do so. This gradually warms up the eggs. Adding the hot milk too fast can make the eggs scramble. Once all of the milk is in, pour this entire mixture back into the saucepan and place onto a low heat.
- Heat the mixture on a low heat and stir constantly while it heats up. Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan with your spoon or whisk, as this is where the custard thickens first. The mixture will begin to thicken to a consistency like runny yoghurt. If you dip a spoon into the mixture, it should coat the spoon without running off completely. When it’s at the desired thickness, remove the pan from the heat and continue to stir rapidly, cooling the mixture, to make sure the it doesn’t continue cooking. If the mixture does overheat and the egg begins to curdle, rest the bottom of the pan in a bowl, or sink, of cold water and mix rapidly, and sometimes it may bounce back!
- Now for the chocolate. Take 75g of best-quality dark chocolate, minimum 75% cocoa (don’t use milk chocolate, it’s flavour will be too weak in the custard) and snap it into squares. Add the chocolate into the custard while its hot and stir until all of the chocolate has melted. Admire as the custard becomes progressively silky and chocolatey as you stir.
- Pour the chocolate custard into a small, heatproof dish. You want the crème brûlée to be no deeper than an inch, so pick a dish that is small and shallow. You could use ramekins. Place these dishes somewhere to cool completely for 2-3 hours, either in a refrigerator or a cool, shady corner.
- When ready to serve, it’s time to make the caramel crust (I love this part!) The best way to do this is with a kitchen blowtorch*. Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of caster sugar around the top of the dish, using your fingers to gently coax the sugar all the way around to cover any bare patches. Using the blowtorch, gently torch the sugar around the sides of the dish before moving to the centre of the dessert. The sugar will melt, fizz and form blackened bubbles which spread and harden into a sheet of caramel across the dessert. If you don’t have a blowtorch, you can do it under a hot grill/broiler. This doesn’t give you as even a result. Place the dish under a grill and rotate it every few minutes to heat the sugar evenly. This method can sometimes heat the custard, so I recommend leaving it to cool for an hour afterwards.
- Serve with spoons and let everybody dive in. You had better get used to this recipe because there’s no doubt you’ll be asked to make it again! It’s a firm favourite.
*You can buy blowtorches fairly cheap online. It’s worth having one if you plan to make creme brûlée again and again. If you do, make sure you buy the suitable butane gas online too, as I’ve found most butane cans in shops don’t properly fit kitchen blowtorches.