You may have noticed there are only three desserts on this entire site, and two of them are crème brûlées. There’s no particular reason for this other than the fact I don’t really like making dessert, and not only can crème brûlée be made in advance, it offers the most bang for the dessert-making buck. Smooth, cold, creamy custard topped with a shatteringly crisp crust: What’s not to like? I made these coffee ones for a dinner we were having with my father-in-law, to complement the beef-heavy main dish. If you’re sensitive to sugar, you might want to reduce the amount to 1/3 cup or so. Otherwise, everything about this—from the amount of coffee flavor to the custard texture—is spot-on.
This recipe, adapted from an ancient issue of Bon Appetit, is for 4 small ramekins.
-4 custard cups or ramekins
-butane or propane torch (doesn’t have to be a chef’s torch; I used a large soldering torch)
• 2 cups whipping cream (95 cents/cup): $1.90
• 1/2 vanilla bean, split: 75 cents
• 1 stick cinnamon: 5 cents
• 1 tsp espresso powder: 30 cents
• 1 T coarsely ground coffee beans: 10 cents
• 1/2 cup sugar: 10 cents
• 4 egg yolks: 48 cents
• 4 T turbinado sugar: 10 cents
TOTAL: $3.78/4 = 95 cents each
Combine cream, regular sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean (scrape the seeds out with a sharp knife, let them and the pod both steep in the cream), coffee beans and espresso powder in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring often, until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat immediately, cover, and let sit for 3o minutes. Strain through a sieve.
As you may notice in the picture below, some of the finer coffee grounds got through. I thought it added visual interest, and it didn’t affect the texture in any way, but if you’re looking for a cleaner presentation, you may want to strain through a double layer of cheesecloth.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat egg yolks in a medium bowl. Slowly add the strained warm cream, whisking constantly. Divide the mixture among the 4 ramekins. Place them in a roasting pan or baking dish, and pour enough hot water into the dish to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for about 50-55 minutes, or until the center is only very slightly jiggly when shaken. Remove ramekins to cool, refrigerate until chilled, preferably overnight.
When ready to serve, sprinkle about 1 T turbinado sugar over the top of each and caramelize with a butane or propane torch. It should be brown and crunchy, but not blackened or burnt. Serve immediately or chill in the fridge for up to 1 hour.