Blackberry Creme Brulee
Crèmes brulées are my mother-in-law's pêcher mignon, which literally translates to "cute fault" in French (which means guilty pleasure). I keep telling her that these custard desserts can be flavored with anything and she keeps challenging me. She brought home a whole case of blackberries from our local market and asked if I could make her favorite dessert cups with them.
So after flavoring crème brulée with lemon, cherry, butterscotch, matcha green tea and masala chai, I was able to prove to her that I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. It has occurred to me though that maybe her "challenge" is just an excuse to get me to make more crèmes brulées. As long as I can come up with more flavors, I'll keep playing along. After that, she'll have to come up with a better reason!
Yields: 6 mini-ramekins2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons superfine sugar (or granulated sugar)
½ vanilla bean
1-½ tablespoons blackberry extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup white baking chocolate (4 ounces)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar, for caramelizing
1 tablespoon powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Break up the white chocolate bar and finely chop it using a chef's knife. Set aside.
In a saucepan, combine the cream and milk. Bring 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 superfine sugar until they become pale yellow. Add the blackberry extract and salt.
Using a paring knife, scrape and gather all the grains of the vanilla bean. Add the grains of vanilla to the egg mixture.
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.
Fill 6 (2-ounce) ramekins 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 30-35 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 teaspoon of sugar in each cup, then caramelize with a culinary torch.
Pat the blackberries dry with a paper towel to ensure no juice is in contact with the sugar crust; otherwise it will turn the bruléed-sugar crust soggy.
When serving, top each ramekin with a blackberry. Finish with a little powdered sugar using a fine mesh shaker or a strainer.
If you want to make an adult version, you can add to the blackberry extract some crème de cassis, which is a strong black currant liqueur. I remember my Papa loved it as a digestif (an alcoholic beverage that is taken right after a meal as an aid to digestion). I think it would add an interesting flavor to the custard.
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), meringues or French macarons.March 11, 2010.