Baking

Rich Dark Chocolate Crème Brûlée

Normally, I opt for chocolate mousse on fancy dinner menus. I’m a chocolate kinda gal, though I can appreciate a good vanilla from time to time. But this delicious concoction combines the best part of chocolate mousse (the chocolate, duh) with the ever-so-satisfying crunch of a crème brûlée. Plus, I got to play with my blow torch!

I got said blow torch last Christmas and have used it a grand total of two times — both in pursuit of making crème brûlée. I suppose one could also use a blow torch for marshmallow-related recipes, but I haven’t yet gone there.

Dark Chocolate crème brûlée before torching

Back in January or February (when I was woefully remiss about posting), I made my first crème brûlée, following the infallible wisdom of Cooks Illustrated. Their recipe turned out amazingly delicious and semi-converted me to a brûlée-fan. But! I also calls for 10 egg yolks. TEN! That’s almost a dozen egg yolks, y’all.

While I diligently followed their instructions the first go around (and it was delicious, I’ll admit), I couldn’t bring myself to sacrifice that many yolks to my second attempt. It just seems excessive.

So, after much poking around on the internet, I settled on a plan to make a hybrid recipe.  The general ratio I ran into in my searching was 2 or 3 egg yolks for each cup of heavy cream. Ina Garden’s recipe calls for 4 egg yolks plus a whole egg (with 3 cups of cream). No offense to the Contessa, but egg white in crème brûlée seemed weird. So, I opted to swap it out for an extra yolk instead.

I also found this recipe that called for some cocoa powder, which I was initially dubious about. But I ended up panicking at the last minute when my custard didn’t look dark enough and tossed in a tablespoon of high-quality cocoa. Not sure what the outcome would have been like without it, but I can’t argue with results. So!

**If you don’t have a blow torch, get one! But in the meantime, this recipe says you can make crème brûlée using your oven’s broiler.

Dark Chocolate crème brûlée with spoon

Rich Dark Chocolate Crème Brûlée

Grade: A

  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 8 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate (I used Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Dark Chocolate – not the 72% dark)
  • 1 Tablespoon dutch process (or high quality) cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
  • A few tablespoons of Turbinado sugar (or sugar in the raw, or just regular granulated sugar if you don’t have fancy sugar on hand)

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 300° F. Place a kitchen towel on the bottom of a large baking dish or roasting pan and arrange six oven-proof 4-6-ounce ramekins on the towel and set aside. Bring a kettle of water to a boil over high heat (you’ll add the boiling water to the pan later).

Pour cream and sugar into a medium sized saucepan and bring the mixture to a rolling simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. While the mixture is heating up, separate the eggs, and whisk the yolks together in a bowl until they are light and fluffy yellow.

When the cream is simmering, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the stove. Stir in the chopped chocolate, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and espresso powder. Stir the mixture until the chopped chocolate has melted completely. Return to the heat if there are a few chunks that just won’t melt.

Once the cream mixture is smooth, slowly pour 1 cup or so of the cream mixture into the egg yolks while whisking them continuously. This is to temper the eggs so that you don’t end up with scrambled eggs! Depending on the size of your bowl, either add the rest of the cream mixture to the egg yolks or pour the warmed yolks into the saucepan with the rest of the cream. Stir until uniform and thoroughly combined.

Pour (most of) the custard mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a 4 cup measuring cup, or into a bowl. I found it easiest to pour the mixture into the ramekins from my big measuring cup, but it didn’t hold all of the custard from the pan, so I had to do it in shifts. You can also ladle the mixture into the ramekins, but that seems like an opportunity for more mess/drips. Regardless, evenly distribute your custard amongst your ramekins.

Gently place the baking dish with the ramekins on the oven rack. Pour the boiling water into the baking dish, being careful not to splash any water into the ramekins (I found it easiest to pour into one corner of the pan). Fill until the water reaches halfway to two-thirds up the side of the ramekins.

Bake until the centers of the custards are just barely set and are no longer sloshy, and a digital instant-read thermometer inserted in the centers registers 170 to 175 degrees, 30 to 35 minutes (25 to 30 minutes for shallow dishes). Begin checking the temperature about 5 minutes before the recommended time.

Gently remove the pan from the oven, then take the ramekins out of the pan and place them on a wire rack to cool for at least one hour. Then, cover each ramekin with plastic wrap and put in the fridge to chill for at least 3 hours.

When ready to serve, blot away any condensation with a paper towel. Spread a spoonful of sugar thinly across the top of the custard, then torch the heck out of them!! Actually… melt the sugar by holding the end of the flame about 1 inch from the surface of the custard until the sugar melts, then burns to a golden brown, proceeding the same way until the entire surface is deeply golden brown and hard.

Refrigerate the ramekins, uncovered, to re-chill, about 30 minutes (but no longer). Or, you can eat them right away!

 

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