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Mother Linda's Update  

© Mother Linda's      

February 2004

Don’t Americans live from one “Hallmark” holiday to another??? I sure think so. Well, it will soon be Valentine’s Day, but instead of a card, how about making that someone special some crème brulée? And heck, if you don’t have someone special in your life right now, you can console yourself with some!! 

Mother Linda’s Crème Brulée

The cream I use to make this recipe comes from a farm in Pennsylvania. In the summer, it is so thick I can turn the container upside down and the cream will not run out—now that’s fresh. The deep, yellow-colored egg yolks from the eggs of grass-fed chickens impart a wonderful color to the finished dessert. You can substitute maple sugar for the sweetening, but it will not set up quite as firm.

3 cups cream

1 cup milk

6 egg yolks

½ cup organic sugar

1 vanilla bean

1 tsp. white sugar per ramekin

Put the cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla bean in a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan. Set over a medium heat and warm, stirring occasionally, until a ring of bubbles forms at the edge of the pan, but do not allow it to boil. Turn off the heat and cool, which allows the vanilla bean to soften. Set a kettle of water on to boil.

Lightly whisk the egg yolks. Gradually add about 1 cup of slightly cooled cream/milk filling to the eggs yolks while continuously beating; then return the egg yolk mixture to the filling. Stir well to incorporate. Fish the vanilla bean out of the filling and slice lengthwise. With a spoon, gently scrap the tiny seeds out of the inside of the bean; stir the vanilla seeds into the filling.

Set eight 5-oz. ceramic ramekins (my favorites are Apilco #1 ramekins) into a 2- or 3-inch deep 9x13-inch baking dish such as cake pan. Divide the filling evenly among all eight ramekins. Gingerly transfer to the oven and pour boiling hot water in the baking dish until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake at 325°F for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove and cool.

Just before serving, evenly sprinkle the top of each ramekin with 1 tsp. sugar and caramelize the sugar with a kitchen torch. If you don’t have a kitchen torch, you can use the broiler to caramelize the sugar by placing the ramekins 3 inches away from the flame and occasionally rotating to evenly caramelize. Makes 8 servings.

Chocolate Espresso Brulées

Some of my update receivers may be philosophically opposed to chocolate, but did you know it is fermented? Hence, I think it has some place, even if small, in a balanced diet. However, it is easy to go overboard, so save your chocolate and sugar calories for homemade dishes of superior quality like this one.

In the summer of 2000, I interviewed chocolate expert Maricel Presilla at her restaurant in New Jersey for an article on chocolate. She was kind enough to share one of the restaurant’s favorite desserts, which was inspired by the Cuban cortadito--a dark espresso toned down with a little frothy milk. Like the cortadito, these are a perfect end to a meal when served in 4-ounce commercial demitasse cups and topped with crushed cacao nibs. Makes nine 4-ounce coffee brulées. (Used by permission of Maricel Presilla.)

1 whole egg

4 egg yolks
2 oz. sugar
1 cup heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise pods
1 vanilla bean, split open
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup dark espresso
8 oz. milk chocolate (preferably El Rey's Caoba or Valrhona's Jivara)

     or a bittersweet chocolate (El Rey's Bucare, Scharffen Berger 60 percent,

     or Guittard Onyx), chopped fine

1 cup white sugar
cacao nibs (preferably Scharffen Berger)"

To make the chocolate espresso cream:

Preheat oven to 335ºF. Whisk the whole egg, egg yolks, and half the sugar together; set the mixture aside. In a saucepan, bring to a simmer the heavy cream, milk, and the rest of the sugar, cinnamon, star anise, vanilla beans, vanilla extract, and espresso. Remove the cinnamon sticks, star anise, and vanilla bean.

Turn off the heat and add the chopped chocolate. As it melts, whisk to combine. Do not overwhip! Gradually stir the warm chocolate mixture into the whisked eggs and combine thoroughly.
To bake the coffee brulées:

Strain the mixture into a beaked container and pour into nine 4-ounce demitasse cups or ramekins. Place the cups or ramekins in a large baking pan. Place the pan in the middle rack of the preheated oven, and fill the pan with very hot water halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake at 335ºF for 35 minutes or until set.
To caramelize the topping:

Cool the ramekins to room temperature. Sprinkle each one with a little white sugar. Caramelize the sugar with a chef's torch or under a broiler. Sprinkle about one-half teaspoon cacao nibs over the caramelized topping while still hot.