Crème brûlée is an excellent example of classical cooking, and it is well worth having in your dessert repertoire. It’s a delicate dish, and though it may seem simple to prepare, it’s essential not to be heavy-handed with the blowtorch.

This decadent dessert has been made for centuries by lightly cooking a blend of eggs and heavy cream. However, Modernist chefs have invented a myriad of ways to make crème brûlée. The newer techniques offer greater consistency and more control over the texture, which can range from airy, typical of a sabayon, to dense, as in a posset.

The one constant among this dish is the use of plenty of fat, which not only provides that distinctive mouthfeel but also makes custard an excellent carrier of fat-soluble flavors and aromas. Lighter varieties of crème brûlée, however, can be aerated in a whipping siphon into smooth, creamy foams.

Moreover, crème brûlée has a distinctively creamy, velvety texture, and, like many other custards, egg yolks and heat serve as its thickener and gelling agent, respectively.

This traditional dessert is said to be French in origin but can be found across Italy. Hence, it makes sense why adding Italian coffee to the classic crrème brûlée makes this dessert tastes so much better.

The sugar topping can be made with a kitchen torch, or even the oven broiler and the sugar top will crisp up as it cools. However, make sure to melt all of the sugar evenly with a blowtorch before it begins to brown, otherwise, you’d end up with several burnt areas and spots of barely caramelized sugar. As you blowtorch your brûlée, a crisp, amber layer should appear on the custard as you lightly sweep the flame over its surface.

INGREDIENTS

4 cups of whipping cream
1 1/2 cup plus 8 teaspoons sugar
2 tbsp ground coffee beans
2 tsp instant espresso powder
2 cinnamon sticks
1 split vanilla bean
5 large egg yolks
1 large egg

PREPARATION

Put eight 3/4-cup custard cups in large roasting pan. Mix cream, 1 cup sugar, instant espresso powder, ground espresso beans, and cinnamon stick in a heavy saucepan. Using a small knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the mixture; add bean. Bring to a boil, stirring until espresso powder and sugar dissolve. Remove the saucepan from heat. Cover; set aside for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Next, whisk egg yolks and egg in a deep bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in cream mixture. Divide among custard cups in pan. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of custard cups. Bake custards until center moves only slightly when cups are gently shaken, about 55 minutes. Remove custards from pan. Cool; refrigerate uncovered overnight.
Preheat broiler. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over each custard. Place custard cups on a baking sheet. Broil until sugar is brown and caramelized, rotating baking sheet to broil evenly and watching closely to avoid burning, 1 to 2 minutes. Chill custards 1 hour. Serve.

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