I have ordered Creme Brûlée in MANY restuarnts but have always been intimidated by the techniques to actually make it. I mean, it seems like such a hassle.. the drawn out prep time, the water bath for baking, the sugar torching...
But it turns out that preparing Creme Brûlée (and it’s sugarless counterpart, the Pot de Creme) is not that much harder than preparing a heat and serve pudding. If anything, it is a little bit easier, because you do all your cooking in the oven. There is no constant stirring or worrying about the milk scorching.
The ingredients are very similar to pudding, but a whole lot richer and more caloric: Egg Yolks, Cream and Sugar
The version of Creme Brûlée I’m sharing with you today is actually a riff on pumpkin pie, by bringing in the fall flavors of squash and pumpkin spices.
Butternut Squash Pot de Creme or Creme Brûlée1 cup Butternut squash puree
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)
For the Brûlée:4-6 Tbsp Granulated White Sugar (depends on size of ramekins)
To Prepare the Squash:You can used canned squash or pumpkin for this recipe, but I like to roast my own, I think it enhances the sweetness.
1/2 of a medium sized squash typically yields 1 cup of puree.
To roast the squash, cut it in half, remove the seeds, wrap it in foil and bake at 350 for about an hour. Then scrape out flesh with a spoon and mash thoroughly.
To Prepare the Pot de Creme:Preheat oven to 350. Also, while preparing custard you may want to preheat some water for the water bath.
Combine egg yolks and brown sugar.
Beat together until they it forms a light brown aerated cream (about 2 minutes by hand.)
Add heavy cream, spices and squash puree and stir well to combine.
Pour though mesh sieve.
Because the squash is fibrous, you may need to force it though with the back of a spatula:
Pour strained custard into ramekins. The blue ones I have are from Le Creuset, but you can get them for much less money if you don't care about the brand.. The square ones are from Home Goods. (They aren't really ramekins, but actually dip bowls, but they are oven safe so they work great!)
Add ramekins to a baking dish and fill with hot water (you want the water to be at least half way up the side.) I’ve found the easiest way to do this is to put the baking sheet on the oven rack, THEN pour the water, and carefully push in the rack. Don’t try to fill the baking dish and carry it to the oven. That won’t end well.
Bake 30–40 minutes at 350. You know they are ‘done’ when they are set but still ‘jiggle’ a little. If they don’t jiggle, you have overcooked them and you will lose some of the creaminess.
To remove the ramekins I use a tong and pull them out of the water and onto a cooling rack. DON’T TRY TO REMOVE THE HOT WATER FILLED BAKING DISH FROM THE OVEN.
I had to pull my small circular ramekins out first and let the larger square ones bake a few more minutes.
After removing the Pot de Cremes from the oven allow them to cool to the touch on the counter. Then move them to fridge to chill. They can be served as is, or you can move on to adding brûléed sugar crust.
To Add the Sugar Brûlée:After allowing the custard to cool completely (at least a few hours in the fridge) add a thin layer of sugar and shake to distribute it evenly (my small ramekins needed about 1 tsp each, larger ones could take as much as a tablespoon each.)
Now you want to use a culinary torch to ‘burn’ the sugar in order to create the thin sugar crust that makes a Creme Brûlée a Creme Brûlée. (If you are buying one for the first time, don't forget to also get the butane.. it isn't included with the torch!)
Because it was hard for me to photograph the brûléeing process I have made a short video showing exactly how long it takes and how the color and texture of the sugar changes. (For me, burning the sugar was the most intimidating part and so seeing it done really helped me get a feel for if I was on the right track)
This is such an elegant dessert and with the sweet taste of butternut squash it would definitely be the perfect dinner party replacement for a pumpkin or sweet potato pie.
But your friends will be a lot more impressed!