Here is a winter version of the very popular creme brulee. Put autumn spices in your cream and let it “steep” before finishing the brulees. For a fabulous finish, flame the brulees tableside by heating the finishing sugar with a butane torch, putting a little Grand Marnier on top the brulee, and carefully igniting it. You will be a hit at your holiday party!
- 4 cups whipping cream
- 1/2 of a vanilla bean, split
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 2 whole star anise
- 4 whole cloves
- 1/2 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 8 large egg yolks
- 3/4 cup sugar
- sugar for sprinkling on top of finished creme brulees
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Place cream in a heavy saucepan. Take the vanilla bean and scrap the inside seeds into the cream. Place the scraped bean into the cream as well.
Add the cinnamon stick, nutmeg, cloves, star anise and chopped ginger. Bring cream to simmer. Turn heat off and cover with a lid or a piece of foil and let the spices steep in the mixture for one hour
Whisk yolks and sugar in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in cream mixture. Strain into a large mixing bowl or pitcher to remove the ginger and other spices.
Divide custard mixture evenly among 8 3/4-cup custard cups. Place cups in a large baking pan. Add enough hot water to pan to come halfway up sides of the cups. Bake until custards are set, about one hour and 15 minutes. The first time you make these, check the brulees at one hour. I have found that the cooking time will vary depending on your oven as the slight difference in calibration will alter how long they take to bake. The brulees should be firm to the touch but may still wiggle slightly.
Remove from the water and place on a baking pan lined with parchment (This will remove any excess water from the bottom of the brulees.) Let cool for about one hour then refrigerate overnight. Can be made several days ahead.
Broiler method of caramelizing
Sprinkle each custard with about 1 tablespoon of sugar. Put under broiler until sugar turns golden.
Butane torch method (prefered method)
Sprinkle each custard with about 1 tablespoon of sugar. With a butane or small propane torch, quickly caramelize the top of the custards. Serve immediately. I prefer this method because it is quicker. When using the broiler method, the brulee custard may become a bit to soft since it takes longer to caramelize.