If it seems that I'm dessert obsessed lately, I sorta am. Fact is, my recipe files were sadly lacking in desserts, and an honest assessment lead to the realization that my chops were too – So I'm out to fix that; suffer through it if you can.
Crème Brûlée, Crema Catalana, Flan, Créme Caramel, and Burnt Cream, is essentially a custard. While many variants add the hard caramel or burnt sugar top, there's nothing at all wrong with putting that caramel on the bottom, and/or making it liquid rather than hard. Some might argue that this would not technically be a brûlée, based on the contention that theFrench verb form brûlée literally means 'to burn'. I'd counter that making a caramel is more or less burning sugar, hence such arguments are quibbling at best.
Crème brûlée in its more or less modern iteration first appeared in a 17th Century cookbook by François Massialot, though he is not the originator of the dish; regardless of claims, custards go back farther than Chef Massialot did. Interestingly enough, a later edition of his cookbook changed the name to Crème Anglaise, a pouring custard not usually associated with this dish. Later iterations fully anglicized the name to Burnt Cream. The derivations mentioned above come from England, Spain, Portugal, and Mexico. There are certainly other names for what is a quite universal treat, and whatever you call it, it's delicious.
The classic version is flavored only with vanilla; remove the chocolate and coffee, and reduce the sugar by one tablespoon from our version below, and there you are. That said, it'd be a shame not to try the full Monty as we did.
For the Crème
2 Cups Heavy Cream
6 Egg Yolks
2 Tablespoons fresh ground Coffee
5 Ounces 60% Cacao Chocolate
3 Tablespoons Bakers Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
For the Caramel
2/3 Cup Bakers Sugar
1/4 Cup brewed Coffee
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Pinch Sea Salt
Have ramekins right at hand.
In a sauce pan over medium high heat, add brewed coffee and reduce by 50%. Add sugar to reduced coffee and combine thoroughly. As blend starts to melt, reduce heat to medium, add vanilla and salt, whisking steadily. When the blend is smooth and consistent, pour equal measures into the bottom of each ramekin and tilt to coat the entire surface. Set ramekins aside. Note: blend will foam quite a bit when vanilla and salt are added, so be careful with heat, removing pan from burner when necessary to keep things under control.
Preheat oven to 300° F.
In a heavy sauce pan over medium heat, bring cream to a simmer.
Remove from heat, stir in ground coffee, cover, and allow to steep for 15 minutes.
Run cream mixture through a double mesh strainer, or doubled cheesecloth, returning steeped cream to sauce pan, and discard the coffee grounds.
Over medium heat, scald cream, (heat until small bubbles form around the edge of the pan); remove from heat.
Place chocolate in a steel or glass mixing bowl; pour cream over chocolate and allow to steep for 5 minutes.
Gently whisk cream mixture into the chocolate. Go slowly and feel the process out so that the chocolate doesn't seize. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla; whisk to incorporate.
Add the cream and coffee blend to the egg mixture and combine thoroughly; go slowly – you want to combine without adding air bubbles to the blend.
Divide mixture among 6 ramekins or custard cups; you want to fill each to within about 3/4″ of the tops.
Place ramekins in a baking dish as or nearly as tall as they are; leave about an inch of space around each ramekin.
In a kettle or pan, boil enough water to fill the baking dish to at last 3/4 the height of the ramekins.
Note: I violated my no bubbles rule, as you can see – They're purely a cosmetic issue, so…
Bake until custards set around the edges, but still jiggle a bit in the center when gently shaken, about 40 to 50 minutes.
Remove from oven and leave in the water bath to cool; when cooled to room temp, transfer to fridge and cool at least 2 hours before adding caramelized sugar top.
When ready to serve, run a thin knife around the edge of a custard, then quickly invert onto a desert plate.