Creme brulee has a classy kind of elegance to it. When first served, it boasts a sparkling sugar shell that shields whatever delight may hide beneath it. When you bring you spoon to its surface, there’s a satisfying snap as you break through the crisp sugar and dive into the creamy custard below. It’s an impressive dessert to look at, and equally impressive to eat. Creme brulee is on almost any fancy restaurant’s dessert menu, a crowd-pleasure with its simple yet seductive qualities.
Well, me being me, I couldn’t just make vanilla creme brulee. I get a thrill from taking something classic and putting a new twist on it that amplifies the original deliciousness without erasing its classic qualities. Tiramisu is a favorite dessert of mine that is similar to creme brulee in its sophisticated nature and generally large fan base. Furthermore, both tiramisu and creme brulee are technically custard-based desserts. I could not deny these similarities, my little cookies. These things were not mere coincidence; tiramisu and creme brulee were just begging to be fused together.
And thus, we have Tiramisu Creme Brulee.
The perfect fusion of these two indulgent desserts, Tiramisu Creme Brulee is sinfully luscious. I’ve never had such a smooth, creamy custard in all my life. Subtle espresso flavor permeates the creme brulee, just as it would the ladyfingers in classic tiramisu. There’s mascarpone in the custard, just as there would be in a Tiramisu’s custard, allowing for that crazy creaminess. A touch of deep chocolate flavor accents the espresso, just as a sprinkling of cocoa powder or chocolate shavings would do on top of the tiramisu. See the similarities? It’s the best of both worlds: creamy custard that tastes like tiramisu and a beautiful burnt sugar topping. There is nothing so satisfying as to sink one’s spoon into that sugar crust, causing the whole top to crackle in response. The best kinds of desserts are the ones that can be destroyed before being enjoyed.
If you’ve never made creme brulee before, it’s not half as scary as it seems. If the kitchen torch thing scares you, you can always use the broiler instead. Best of all, you can make the custards ahead of time and then caramelize the sugar topping when ever you’re ready to serve. A make-ahead treat that’s beautiful to look at and heavenly to eat? It doesn’t get much better than this.
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- As I said above, you may use your oven’s broiler if you don’t own a kitchen torch (or if you’re just afraid of one). Turn your oven up as high as it goes and place the sugar-covered custards on the highest rack of the oven, as close to the broiler as you can get them. Make sure you keep an eye on them. Broilers literally turn things from brown to burnt in a matter of seconds.
- I don’t recommend the broiling above if you have an old, neurotic oven like mine. The last time I tried to broil creme brulee, the ramekins got so hot that I set my oven mitt on fire (and yet the sugar never melted). You’ve got to be careful.
- Serve the creme brulees with ladyfingers and sliced strawberries for an extra special presentation. You could also do a sprinkle of powdered sugar.
- If you’ve never tempered eggs before, “tempering” simply means bringing the egg mixture’s temperature up slowly and whisking constantly so the eggs don’t scramble. Add the hot liquid slowly; make sure to keep whisking. As long as you do that, you’re golden.
- It’s easy to overbake creme brulee, but you want to avoid this. You’ll dry them out and lose that creamy quality.
- Ever wonder why it’s called “Creme Brulee”? “Brulee” means to burn in French, and is referring to the processing of burning the sugar topping.
- You can add a small splash of liqueur (like Kaluha) or rum extract since tiramisu sometimes has an alcohol element, but I omitted it because I hate the taste of alcohol.
Tiramisu Crème Brulee
By The Smart Cookie Cook
- 2 cups whipping cream
- ½ cup mascarpone cheese
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 tsp. espresso powder
- 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar
- 6 egg yolks
- 4 tbsp. granulated sugar, for topping
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a medium pot, cook cream, cheese, and vanilla at medium heat until it is just beginning to boil. Immediately remove from heat and whisk in espresso, chopped chocolate, and cocoa powder.
- In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and egg yolks until light and fluffy. Slowly temper in the chocolate cream mixture, making sure to whisk constantly so you don’t scramble the eggs. Evenly distribute the mixture between four 8-ounce ramekins.
- Place the ramekins in a large casserole dish. Place the casserole dish into the oven and keep oven door open. Very carefully pour hot water into the casserole dish around the ramekins until it comes about halfway up the ramekins. Be careful not to splash yourself or get water in the ramekins.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until custard is set around the edges but still wiggly in the middle. A toothpick inserted in the center should not come out clean, but should not be liquid either. Do not overbake!
- Remove from oven and immediately take the ramekins out of the water-filled casserole dish. Allow to cool at room temperature. Once cooled, chill the custards in the fridge for at least an hour.
- When ready to serve, sprinkle sugar evenly over each custard so that top is completely covered in an even layer. Use a kitchen torch according to manufacturer’s directions to brulee the sugar tops until browned and crisp. Serve immediately.