A New Way with Crème Brûlées!

Creme Brulee Almond Pistachio Brittle 1In September I wrote an enthusiastic post about a soup and salad supper I served my book club, and included the recipe for the scallop and corn chowder offered that evening. Although I mentioned that honeyed crème brülées made a delectable ending for our menu, I didn’t include that recipe. It didn’t take long for a member of my book group to ask, “But what about the directions for those velvety honeyed crème brülées with the crunchy nut topping?”

The truth is that this particular dessert was still a work in progress even the night of our meeting. I’d made several versions the week before, but was still tweaking the recipe! A few more tries, and voilà–the flavors and textures were finely balanced.

What distinguishes these custards from others is that crème fraîche and honey are included in the base adding tart and sweet notes simultaneously. And, instead of topping the cooked crèmes with a sprinkling sugar and then “burning” them with a blow torch or placing them under a broiler, the “burnt” topping is chunks of caramelized almond and pistachio brittle.

Honey Crème Brûlées with an Almond Pistachio Brittle
2 cups crème fraîche
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
6 large egg yolks
3 tbsp sugar
4 1/2 tsp honey

Almond Pistachio Brittle
Vegetable oil for the baking sheet
6 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp water
1/4 tsp kosher salt
6 tbsp slivered almonds, preferably lightly toasted (See note.)
6 tbsp unsalted roasted pistachios (See note.)

1. Arrange a rack at the center position and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Have ready six 6-ounce ramekins and place them in a 9- by 13-in pyrex or other large baking dish.

2. Whisk together the crème fraîche and cream in a medium saucepan set over medium heat until the crème fraîche has liquefied and mixture is just barely warm, 1 to 2 minutes.

3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together by hand the egg yolks, sugar, and honey until blended, 1 to 2 minutes. Then with an electric mixer on medium low speed, gradually, in a thin stream, whisk in the crème fraîche mixture. Divide the mixture evenly among the ramekins. Pour enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins in the pan.

4. Bake  custards until set, but centers are still slightly quivering and wobbly, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove custards to a rack, and cool to room temperature. Cover and chill until firm, for at least two hours. (The custards can be prepared 2 days ahead; cover and refrigerate.)

5. For the brittle, have ready a foil-lined baking sheet greased with vegetable oil. Place the sugar, water, and salt in a medium, heavy saucepan set over medium high heat. Stir just until the sugar has dissolved completely into the liquid. Cook, tipping pan gently from time to time to incorporate any sugar on the sides of the pan, until the mixture starts to caramelize and turns a rich tea brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Watch carefully.

6. Remove saucepan from heat and, using a wooden spoon, carefully stir in the almonds and pistachios. Spread the mixture on the baking sheet and cool completely. Using a sharp large knife, break the brittle into either large or small chunks. (Brittle can be prepared 3 days ahead; store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)

7. To serve garnish tops of custards with some brittle. (You may have some brittle left over; save extras for snacking or sprinkling on scoops of ice cream.) Serves 6.

Notes:
To toast almonds spread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven until lightly browned, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir once or twice and watch carefully as they can burn quickly. Remove and cool to room temperature.

Toasted slivered almonds and unsalted toasted pistachios are available at Trader Joe’s.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2013

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