When I asked my friend what sort of dessert he would like for his birthday, he simply said, “Crispy”. My first thoughts ran to cookies, but then I remembered the delightful versatility of creme brûlée. Its delicate crust is nothing if not crispy and the range of flavors is limitless.
I chose to make this very simple white chocolate mint dessert from the book Creme Brûlée by Sara Lewis. Chilling takes about 4 hours, while actual assembly only takes a few minutes, so prepare accordingly.
- 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 7 oz white chocolate (broken into bits)
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/4 superfine (or caster) sugar
- 2 oz strong, white peppermints (I used Altoids)
- 3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar (to finish the crispy top)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Pour the cream into a saucepan and bring it to a slight boil. Add the chocolate to melt. Don’t burn your cream. Set it off the heat for awhile as the chocolate melts and stir occasionally.
In a separate bowl, blend the egg yolks and caster sugar together with a fork. Gradually mix the chocolate cream into the egg/sugar mix. Stir well. Pour the mix back into your saucepan.
Pulverize your mints. Really. They should be like powder. Crush them with a mallet or a rolling pin. This is why I chose Altoids instead of the hard mint candies. You could also use mint extract, but I didn’t have any on hand. Once crushed, stir them into your mix.
Arrange 6 heatproof ramekins in a broiling pan. Pour your mix into the ramekins and pour enough water into the pan around them to come half-way up the ramekin sides.
Now bake in a 350 oven for 20-25 minutes. In this time, the custard should set. It will still be “wiggly” when you remove it, but it shouldn’t be like liquid. Mine took the full 25 minutes, but check it at 20 to be sure. It should still be soft in the center when you remove it.
Leave the ramekins in the water to cool a bit, and then transfer them to the refrigerator for 3-4 hours. Don’t cover them! You can even leave them overnight if you like. Creme brûlée is a forgiving dessert. It will keep for a few days. Just wait for the last minute to caramelize the tops.
When they are set, sprinkle confectioner’s sugar on top. Don’t be stingy with it but don’t overload it either. The amount of sugar you use will determine the crispiness of the top.
There are a couple ways to caramelize your sugar. I use a brûlée torch because the other way (broiler oven) can damage the consistency of your dessert. If you don’t have a torch, you have no choice about the broiler but you can minimize risk by putting your ramekins back in a water bath (cold water) to keep them from melting, then put them under a broiler for a few minutes. Watch them CLOSELY. Burned sugar smells really bad.
This is my torch. If you do buy one and you have kids, hide it. Apparently this device is an irresistible temptation to teenaged boys. Many was the time I would be ready to caramelize a dessert only to find my torch out of fuel. Of course, no one in the house knew anything about how that happened…. but I digress.
Your sugar will start to turn brown and bubble. Keep going until it is consistently golden. Some spots may be darker than others. Persist until the whole is caramelized. Let it set for 10 minutes, at least, to cool and fully harden.
Happy cooking! And Happy Birthday, Marc!