|Festive Creme Brulee|
Crème Brûlée: it is ubiquitous, peripatetic, versatile, multi-national, non-denominational, simple to make and, when done well as it usually is, very good. It is like the simple black sheath: dress it up or dress it down. Add fruit or jam to the custard mixture, or not; garnish with fresh fruit and mint, or not; sprinkle lots of sugar on top and blowtorch until a crisp, caramel crust results, or not. It is good any way and every way.
We decided to theme our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners this year. Italian for Christmas Eve and French for Christmas Day. So this week’s French Fridays with Dorie challenge nicely fit our culinary itinerary. But I admit to being less than thrilled since it seems like such a passé dessert. And let’s face it, Trader Joe’s long ago decoded the mystery of this dessert when it felt confident enough to offer it in the frozen dessert section.
|Eggs & sugar for the custard|
|Whisking before hot liquid and vanilla are added|
Dorie’s recipe for Crème Brûlée has definitely renewed my enthusiasm for this dessert. Using the base custard mixture like a little black sheath, she has dressed it up with the addition of jam or jelly, and there didn’t seem to be any restriction on the flavors that could be used. With this in mind, my intrepid sous chef went to market and, like a little piggy, returned with Bellini Jam, Holiday Jam, and Strawberry Rhubarb Jam. We made two of each flavor and decided the Bellini Jam, which is a combination of peaches, sugar and Prosecco, was the lightest and least sugary and ended up being our favorite. It was quite delicious, lusciously creamy with an ever so sublime hint of vanilla that lingers on the palate. I feel like I’m describing a wine, but what’s so bad about that if it pleases the palate and tickles the taste buds?
|Just boiling heavy cream and whole milk|
|Tempering the egg mixture|
|A little pure vanilla|
Dorie’s Crème Brûlée is a great base for a holiday dessert and can be made to look quite festive if you want to wow your guests with a little “over the top” plating. Another plus—particularly during the holiday craze--is ease of preparation. The custard takes less than 10 minutes to prepare, although it needs 50-60 minutes to bake and set in the oven, and another 3 hours to chill. So some advance planning is needed. Fortunately, the dessert can be made a couple days in advance and stored tightly covered in the refrigerator. Just sugar and blowtorch (if you choose) and garnish when you are ready to serve. We experimented and found the dessert retained its original fresh flavor even after a couple days in the refrigerator.
|Bellini, Holiday Jam and Strawberry Rhubarb waiting for the custard|
|Drizzling the custard|
|Voila! One down four to go|
Some notes about this recipe that I would like to share:
The brown sugar caramelizes pretty quickly, so you need to watch the flame carefully so the sugar does not burn.
The caramelized sugar top was a little sweet for our taste when combined with the jam, which already has plenty of sugar.
The more liquid the jam, the longer the cooking time. Treat the jam like yogurt and strain off some of the liquid. Fresh fruit as a jam/jelly substitute could be quite interesting and less sugary.
The custard mixture was wonderful and really didn’t need the jam—or the sugar top for that matter--to enhance the flavor.
|Just out of the oven, and perfectly set|
|Don't recommend torching the sugar and taking photo at same time|
In the holiday spirit, I adorned our Crème Brûlée with a rosemary wreath and fresh raspberries masquerading as Christmas ornaments. To make the rosemary wreath, take two rosemary branches, approximately 7 inches each, tie together at the top with a ribbon, and the bottom can be stapled or taped together and covered with a raspberry ball to hide the tape/staple. The holly in the center is represented by 3 mint leaves and a raspberry. Quite a festive holiday dessert!
|Ready to share the holiday cheer - rosemary wreath with raspberry Christmas ornaments|
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good dessert!
To read more French Friday with Dorie experiences with Crème Brûlée, or to join the group, go to: