Cherry Creme Brulee with Stewed Cherries
I wanted to make a crème brulée that was absolutely packed with cherry flavor. No subtlety here. I'm talking full on, Witches of Eastwick levels of cherry flavor. To accomplish this, I added cherry extract to the custard, and placed a layer of stewed cherries at the bottom of each bowl. I finished each dessert by serving it with a maraschino cherry.
It's not cherry season yet, so I used frozen cherries. They are picked at the peak of ripeness, so they taste great. When thawed, frozen cherries can lose their form, but since I was stewing them, the shape of the cherries didn't matter so much. Cherries may not immediately come to mind when you think of winter desserts, but their ready availability in a variety of forms that are great for cooking make them an excellent choice.
Yields: 8 small bowls1 (10-ounce) bag frozen pitted cherries, thawed at room temperature
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons Cabernet Sauvignon (or any red wine)
½ vanilla bean
3/4 cup superfine sugar (or granulated sugar)
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon cherry extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
2 cups heavy cream
1-½ cups white baking chocolate (8 ounces)
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
8 maraschino cherries (see tips)
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
For the stewed cherries:
Make sure the cherries were previously pitted.
In a small pan, combine the cherries, red wine and ½ cup sugar. Using a paring knife, scrape and gather all the grains of the vanilla bean. Add the grains of vanilla to the cherries. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 10-11 minutes. Set aside.
Break the white chocolate bar and finely chop it using a chef's knife. Set aside.
In a saucepan, combine the cream and milk. Bring it to a near boil. Turn off the heat and immediately add the chocolate chips. Using a spatula, keep stirring until the chocolate is fully incorporated (see tips).
In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks with ¼ cup of sugar until they become pale yellow. Add the cherry extract and salt. Combine the dairy liquid with the egg mixture by slowly adding a ladle of the dairy liquid at a time to prevent the yolks from curdling (it's called tempering).
Strain through a fine mesh and discard all the solids.
Place 3 stewed cherries with as little liquid as possible in (3-½-inch diameter) mini-bowls (make sure they are heat-proof). Fill the 8 mini-bowls with the crème brulée custard. Place them in a warm water bath in a deep baking pan. The water should go half-way up the side of the ramekins (at least a 1-½-inch-high level of water). Loosely cover the dish with a sheet of aluminum foil and place in the oven for 35-40 minutes. The texture of the crèmes brulées should be a little jiggly but not liquid (the custard will get firmer and creamier as it chills in the refrigerator).
Allow the crèmes brulées to cool completely first, then plastic-wrap each individual cup and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. The fat from the cream may pick up other food odors from the refrigerator if the cups are not sealed properly.
When serving, unwrap the cups and sprinkle about 1-½ teaspoons of sugar in each cup, then caramelize with a culinary torch.
Pat the maraschino cherries dry using paper towels. There should be no maraschino cherry syrup; otherwise it will turn the bruléed-sugar crust soggy. Top each bowl with a maraschino cherry.
Serve the crèmes brulées on a large platter with a bowl of the remaining stewed cherries on the side (in case someone wants more stewed cherries on top).
If you want to make an adult version, you can replace the maraschino cherries with griottes, which are sour cherries macerated in alcohol. I remember my Papa loves cherries in kirsch brandy. You could also substitute kirsch liqueur (cherry brandy) or coffee liqueur for the cherry extract.
I used Belgian white chocolate that I bought directly from the local market but you can use any other white chocolate chips.
A pinch of salt brings out the flavor of the dessert and enhances its sweetness.
After scraping the grains of vanilla, do NOT discard the remaining vanilla bean. Just place the vanilla bean in a jar and cover it with regular granulated sugar. Let it sit for a few weeks and you'll get a nice, fragrant vanilla sugar.
If you don't have a vanilla bean, you can substitute 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.
While letting the chocolate steep in the dairy mixture, it's preferable to stir the mixture until the liquid is smooth, rather than whisking to create as little milk froth as possible. You don't want a latte foam to form.
If you don't own a blow torch, you can place the crèmes brulées under the broiler until the sugar caramelizes. But if you decide to make this dessert quite often like we do, a culinary torch is a good investment.
Set aside the egg whites in the refrigerator and save them for making tuiles cookies (literally "roof tiles" in French).February 26, 2010.