Friday, November 24, 2006

Chocolate Cremé Brulée

Here's how most of my family time went "Hi, so good to see you, did you bring truffles?"

I had to admit that with the still warm temperatures, the recent move back to Arizona, the fact that parts of my kitchen are still awaiting some guys to finish off the drywall process (tape, mud, mountains of dust) and the fact that I've been working on a lot more music projects than I anticipated (which is not a complaint just a statement) I haven't gotten the truffle operation going this year. I had to promise that there will be truffles for Christmas, and Valentine's, and Mother's Day. But we are talking batches made at home and not the full on industrial operation that they've become so reliant on over the years. I will still be running the "Win a Dozen Truffles" contest in December.

So, to keep peace in the family, and to please my own palate, before the relatives scatter hither and yon, I am making Chocolate Cremé Brulée for the final send off dinner.

This is not that tricky a dish. The main technique that is required is tempering. This is where you take a hot liquid and slowly merge it into eggs or chocolate. To do this without scrambling the eggs or breaking the chocolate is a critical step. Plus, right before serving you get to whip out the blowtorch and go to town. That's always fun.


(for six)

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (Trader Joe's® Pound Plus 70% Cocoa mass bars simply rock, but if you have a particular favorite bittersweet brand, by all means serve to your own Jones)
1-1/3 cups whipping cream (Smart & Final® Manufacturing Cream)
5 large egg yolks
3 Tablespoons Baker's sugar
1-1/2 cups raspberries, chilled (frozen works just fine here)
1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon Baker's Sugar (very fine ganulated for an even crusting on the Brulée)
For garnish: whipped cream & 18 whole rasperries (Fresh only, if you can't get fresh raspberries use a sprig of mint)

Melt the chocolate, either over simmering water or in the microwave. For the microwave melt (which is what I do because chocolate hates water of all kinds) put it on high for 30 seconds, stir, high for 20 seconds, stir, then 10 seconds at a time until completely melted and smooth. Set aside and allow to cool slowly.

In a heavy saucepan (I have a copper clad cast iron monster) scald the cream. This means to bring it right to the edge of boiling, where there are small bubbles beginning to form around the edges. Whisk the egg yolks in a medium mixing bowl until they are smooth and lemon colored, then whisk in the 3 tablespoons of baker's sugar until well blended. Now it's time to temper. Using a standard size kitchen ladle whisk the hot cream gradually into the egg yolk/sugar mixture. Do this a little at a time, mixing thoroughly each ladle full. Keep at this until the cream and the egg yolk/sugar/cream mixture are roughly the same temperature then you can put the egg/sugar/cream mixture all into the saucepan at once and mix it completely. Cook this over a low flame, stirring constantly, taking care to scrape the bottoms and sides with a wooden spoon. Cook for around five minutes until the custard is 160° or, if you're so barbaric that you don't have an instant read thermometer handy, until the custard begins to evenly coat the back of the wooden spoon.

Now it's time to temper into the chocolate. Transfer the custard to a bowl, stir it gently for about 30 seconds to help cool it down. Then allow it to cool another five full minutes. You do not want the custard to be hotter than 120° (are you about ready to hit the cooking supply store for your instant read thermometer yet?) when you mix it into chocolate. For you brave luddites out there who resist sensible technology I will now describe the "ouch" test. If you stick your finger (your clean and dry finger) into the custard and you pull it out saying "Ouch" before 15 seconds, your custard is too hot. If you sucked the custard off of your finger, wash your hands again, dry completely with a cloth towel and repeat the process. Once you can hold your finger, one knuckle deep in the custard for a full fifteen seconds either the custard is below 120° or you are trying to prove to everybody how tough you are. If it's the latter condition you deserve to have the chocolate break and the recipe fail. You should have gotten yourself a thermometer.

Transfer the custard about a 1/2 cup at a time into the chocolate. Stirring until completely mixed. Again, once the two mixtures are roughly the same temperature you can then mix in the rest of the custard. The resulting chocolate custard should be glossy, silky, and voluptuously aromatic, be prepared to defend your kitchen from assault here. They will come after it right now, but stand firm. What you need to do now is to allow the custard to cool to room temperature while stirring it every few minutes to prevent it forming a skin.

Once it is at room temperature you can transfer it into the individual ramekins. Put the raspberries and their juice evenly around the bottom of the six ramekins. Carefully spoon about 1/3 cup of custard over this and smooth it with a spatula. Cover this closely with plastic. That means to get the plastic wrap right on the surface of the custard. Any air pockets will skin up. Small little defects of this type won't hurt anything but a skin across the top is just gross. Refrigerate the ramekins four to six hours before serving.

When it's time to serve, put around a tablespoon and a half of baker's sugar evenly over the custard and torch it until the sugar melts and begins to brown and bubble.

Garnish with whipped cream and fresh raspberries. (or a mint sprig if there aren't any raspberries available) Serve this immediately to rapturous accolades, enthusiastic applause followed by blessed silence as they dig into it. Be gracious in your acceptance of this acclaim, you truly earned it this time. The best companion beverages for this are espresso (in a demitasse with a twist of lemon---this is not cappuchino time, not latté this is time for full on unflavored espresso in the proper, petite cup), brandy, or calvados. Stay away from liqueurs or (ugh!) dessert wines. This is a dessert of strong flavors and deserves to be alongside something with teeth.

crossposted at 3B's


Blogger pissed off patricia said...

OMG, I gained five pounds while just reading your post. :)

7:35 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

yeah, i once responded to someone who asked me about making a "low calorie" version of one of my desserts. i said "Ok, eat it while sitting on the floor."

The richness of this one pretty much precludes massive over-indulgence. which brings me to another witty rejoinder to a stupid critique.

Someone was declined a truffle that was offered saying "oh, that's too rich."

i replied "let me guess, you also think that elle mcphearson is too thin."

there are just certain concepts i find impossible to wrap my mind around.

i encourage you to give this one a try. it's more tedious than difficult, it can be done the day ahead. the silky chocolate custard, creamy and cold, the crunchy sharp caramelized brulée, still a little hot from its scorching all make for a dramatic impact. it is certainly worth the effort. when one of my favorite uncles heard about my plans to make this he exclaimed joyfully "wonderful! i'll make the irish coffees." i'm very proud to be in a family that takes action on their emotions.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Sandi @ the WhistleStop Cafe said...

Ohhh~ I just love creme brulee!

6:34 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

this one's excepional. . .here's the classic version that's baked and stuff. this one isn't baked because of the chocolate and its habit of forming a tough skin over the custard. because of the no bake action the custard on this one is much silkier. i like the contrast a lot. thanks for stopping by, i figured my little blog would get noticed by the the foodies before musicians got hip. (i'm not really that eager for the musicians to start checking in i gotta work for them and stuff)

7:17 PM  

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