Chocolate With Francois: Chocolate Cremes Brulees

I joined a new baking group! I'm really quite excited about this particular group. It's called Chocolate With Francois, and we'll be making recipes from Francois Payard's Chocolate Epiphany: Exceptional Cookies, Cakes, and Confections for Everyone. You may have heard me mention this book before. It contains recipes for the most amazing chocolate granola and the most wonderful flourless chocolate cake I've ever made or eaten. The recipes range from fairly straightforward to quite elaborate, so I was relieved to see that our first recipe was one of the less complicated ones.

Julie from Little Bit of Everything created the group and chose the first recipe: chocolate cremes brulees.

I had never made creme brulee before now, let alone chocolate creme brulee. I was really excited to try, as it is one of my favorite custard-style desserts (though I admit I like panna cotta just a little better).

The custard is made with just four ingredients: 72% chocolate, sugar, egg yolks, and heavy cream.

The custard is baked just until set and then refrigerated until it is completely set.

chocolate creme brulee
Then comes the fun part -- or in my case, the difficult part. I had originally planned to make the creme brulees in shallow 4-ounce ramekins, but as I was drying them off after rinsing them I noticed the writing on the bottom: "no broiler." I needed to use the broiler because I don't yet own a blow torch (it's moved up on the list of must-have kitchen items now). Once I realized that I couldn't use the shallow dishes, I swapped them out for some taller ramekins, not thinking at the time of the implications this would have on the sugar caramelizing process.

Halving Payard's recipe, I ended up with 4 ramekins. The day after I made these, I took two of the chilled ramekins out of the fridge and, following the recipe, topped each with 2 tablespoons of sugar. This looked like way too much sugar to me.

And it was.

When I finished caramelizing the sugar, which took a lot longer than it should have given the tall ramekins and the lack of a blow torch, my creme brulees were thickly layered with hardened sheets of sugar -- sugar that would hurt your teeth if you bit into it but was wonderful when you let it melt in your mouth with a bit of the chocolate custard.

The following night, I tried using less sugar but ended up nearly burning the topping. I couldn't get it right, but the dessert was still delicious.

Payard recommends using brown sugar to "fancy up" the dessert, so I tried that as well. He explains that brown sugar is too moist to caramelize, so I had to dry it in a 200-degree oven for an hour first. Once it was dry, I crushed up any clumps with the back of a spoon and sprinkled the dried sugar over the remaining custard.

I put this one under the broil as well. I probably pulled it out a little prematurely, but I didn't want to risk burning another. Some of the brown sugar caramelized and some stayed on top adding an extra crunch. I liked the combination of the more complex brown sugar flavor with the chocolate.

I really look forward to making these cremes brulees again (and trying to make some other flavored ones) when I own a blow torch.

Check out Chocolate With Francois to see how the other members did!