Sunday, June 5, 2011

White Chocolate Crème Brûlée

Despite the name, by no stretch of the imagination is this a true “brûlée.” There’s no caramelized topping - the essence of the French “Crème Brûlée” (literally “burnt cream”). I modified the classic vanilla brûlée to include white chocolate, adding a thin layer of dark chocolate before topping it with a frothy meringue, which I flamed with a kitchen torch. Although I prefer to use high-quality European Callebaut baking chocolate for special treats, it’s generally sold in large slabs. For convenience, I bought baking chocolate that was neatly scored into one-ounce squares. Here’s my recipe:
To Prepare the White Chocolate Custard:
2-½ c. whipping cream
½ c. granulated sugar
5 squares (5 oz. or 28 g each) white chocolate, chopped
6 egg yolks (reserve 3 of the egg whites for meringue topping)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 300 deg. F. Stir cream and sugar into an 8-cup (2 L) Pyrex measuring cup, or into another microwave-safe container. Microwave on medium power about 5 min., or until bubbles form around edge. Add chopped white chocolate, stirring until smooth. Set aside.
In bowl, whisk egg yolks with vanilla. Whisk in warm chocolate-cream mixture. Microwave on medium power 2-½-to-3 min., whisking smooth every minute (Lumps happen to the best of us. If so, beat them out with a hand blender or electric hand mixer). Divide custard among eight ½-cup ramekins. Place ramekins in baking pan. Carefully add enough boiling water to the pan to come halfway up the sides of ramekins. Bake 30 min., until custard is set around edges but is still soft at center. Remove ramekins from water bath; cool at room temperature before chilling in the fridge 30 min.
To Prepare the Dark Chocolate Layer:
3 squares (1 oz. or 28 g each) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
Place bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate in microwavable bowl. Microwave on “high” power about 45 seconds; stir until melted and smooth. Spoon onto tops of chilled custards, spreading to edges with back of spoon. Refrigerate until chocolate is firm, about 15 min. 
To Prepare the Meringue Topping:
3 egg whites, chilled
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
6 tbsp. granulated sugar
Candied violets, optional
In a chilled bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy, adding sugar one tablespoon at a time. Beat until stiff and shiny, with not residual graininess from the sugar. Using the back of a spoon or decorating bag, swirl topping high over meringue, forming stiff peaks. 
Using kitchen torch or direct heat of your oven broiler, brown meringue until nicely golden for just few moments, keeping a close watch to ensure it doesn’t burn. Just before serving, tuck one or two candied violets at the edge of each ramekin. Serves 8.
Note: All these Crème Brûlée recipes are easy to cut in half for a small dinner party. Fewer Crème Brûlées = better portion-control = fewer leftovers = less temptation!

Add chocolate to hot cream

Combine eggs and vanilla

Whisk warm chocolate-cream mixture into eggs

Fill pan with boiling water halfway up ramekins

Chop chocolate for dark melted layer

For meringue topping, beat eggs whites stiff

Pipe meringue over dark chocolate layer

Pipe meringue high, toasting under kitchen torch

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