Happy 2013! Remember how in my last post I was mentioning that everything I do these days happens a little later than I originally planned? Yep…well, it’s four days into the new year but I can still send out wishes and good thoughts, can’t I?
Thank you to all of you who have sent me holidays greetings, well wishes, and support. I am officially on maternity leave and waiting for baby to make its entrance into the world! It’s sort of Twilight Zone-limbo-like: while everyone else is bustling back to work with New Year’s resolutions, I’m just sitting around, attempting furiously to be calm and rested and appreciative of my last few moments to myself (and since when does willing yourself to relax ever work?). Instead, I’m taking more pleasure in the doing of small things: walking the dog, finishing up small projects around the house, writing to friends.
And getting some last blog posting while I can! With wild and crazy New Year’s Eve plans off the table, we envisioned a quiet passing of the old year. But I still wanted to make something special to ring in the new, so after scrounging around the kitchen and racking my brain, I came up with something that seemed suitably festive and fun: s’mores crème brûlée.
I’m really pleased with how this turned out for a last-minute inspiration. It’s perfect party food: easy to put together and suitably impressive. Although it’s best to make the chocolate crème brûlée the night before, it will be perfectly fine with just a couple hours’ chill, so you can make it the day of and still have dessert at the end of dinner. New Year’s is over, but I’m sure there are other events coming up – say, Superbowl? Valentine’s Day? where this would work just fine.
I love torching things (gets the party going, right?) and you get double the torch time with this: first to brûlée the sugar crust, and then to toast the meringue. I know it seems like an extra step to make some meringue instead of just tossing some marshmallows on top, but trust me, it’s worth it. The pillowy-fluffy-gooeyness of toasted fresh meringue is miles away from those store-bought mallows. I piped out the meringue, but if you’re lazy you can always just dollop the meringue on – it tastes just as good either way.
Although I started out by playing with a graham cracker crust and then sprinkling graham cracker crumbs over the top, in the end hubby and I decided the best way to go was just to use graham cracker pieces as the serving utensil. Not only does this provide the correct graham-chocolate-marshmallow ratio for a proper s’mores experience, but it also makes it a true party food. (You have no idea how, er, thrilled I was to realize the dessert I envisioned to be so elegant and refined turned out to be a fancy version of 7-layer bean dip, or something. You thought I was bringing up the Superbowl ironically in the previous paragraphs, didn’t you?)
The ramekins I used are about 5″ across and 1″ deep; I like wider ramekins because it gives you a greater surface area which equals more crackly sugar top. However, wider and shallower does mean the crème brûlée will cook faster, so watch them carefully in the oven and check them on the earlier side. If you use deeper, narrower ramekins they will naturally take longer to set. The edges should be just firm and the center should jiggle when you move the pan, but it shouldn’t be fully liquid.
I was able to fill four of my 5″ ramekins with the crème brûlée, but when you’re eating it with graham crackers it definitely becomes a two-person affair at least. Which, again, is great for a party, but if you’re serving them individually you might be able to get away with using more smaller ramekins. Then again, that might leave you with some guests clamoring for more. I just like how cozy and satisfying this dessert is, both to make – and eat.
I hope you all are enjoying a bright new year – stay warm!
Chocolate Crème Brûlée
- 2 cups (460 g) heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons (50 g) sugar
- 5 large egg yolks
- 4 oz (113 g) semisweet to bittersweet chocolate (I used 70% Scharffen Berger), finely chopped
- 4 (120 g) large egg whites
- 1 cup (200 g) sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- extra sugar for bruleeing
- graham crackers (or you can make them from this recipe
For the crème brûlée:
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Set out six ramekins and a roasting pan that will fit all the ramekins comfortably.
- Combine cream and 3 tablespoons of the sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil on the stove.
- Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and remaining tablespoon of sugar together in a medium bowl.
- When the cream has just come to a boil, add chocolate to the saucepan and stir until chocolate is fully melted and combined with the cream.
- Slowly pour the hot chocolate mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to prevent eggs from cooking. Strain mixture into a bowl or measuring cup.
- Divide custard mixture evenly among prepared ramekins. The mixture should come up just a little shy of the rim of the ramekins. Tap the ramekins lightly on the counter to get rid of any air bubbles.
- Place ramekins in roasting pan so they are not touching the sides. Fill the pan with hot water about halfway up the height of the ramekins.
- Carefully place roasting pan in oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the custard appears set but still jiggly. If you are using wide, shallow ramekins (like the ones in my photos), it will take closer to 25 minutes. If you are using smaller, deeper ramekins, it may take a little longer to set.
- Remove from oven and carefully take out ramekins from roasting pan. Let cool until you can touch the ramekins, then cover and chill for at least 2 hours.
For the meringue:
- Combine the sugar and egg whites in a medium metal bowl and place over a pan of simmering water.
- Whisk the sugar mixture constantly over heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture looks smooth and shiny, about 3 minutes.
- Remove mixture from heat and pour into a stand mixer bowl. Whisk on medium speed for about 5 minutes until the mixture has cooled.
- Beat on high speed until stiff glossy peaks form, about another 5 to 10 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to combine.
- You can now scrape the meringue into a piping bag to pipe, or if you want to keep it simple you can just dollop it on top of your dessert.
- Sprinkle top of each ramekin with about a tablespoon of sugar. Use a kitchen torch or broiler to caramelize the sugar.
- Pipe or spoon the meringue over the top of the ramekin. Use a kitchen torch or broiler to lightly toast the meringue.
- Insert a few graham cracker pieces into the brûlée and serve immediately.