Tuesday night’s cooking class at Edom Bakery was right up my alley. Chocolate! Need I say more? Well, I’ll also say real crème brûlée, because because before we dove headfirst into chocolate work with Chef Kat Kilpatrick, Chef Jackson taught us to make crème brûlée from scratch, including using a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar on top! (He’s a trusting soul.)
It’s not difficult to make crème brûlée, actually, if you have the proper tools and vessels. Let me share the recipe we used, first of all.
1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split, or vanilla extract (I’d use about a tablespoon. Taste after adding.)
1 cup sugar, divided
6 large egg yolks
2 quarts hot water
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
Place the cream & vanilla into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean, if you used one, and reserve for another use.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well-blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large rectangular cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until it is set, but still trembling in the center, about 40-45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least two hours, up to three days.
Remove the crème brûlée from the refrigerator for at least thirty minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar equally among the six dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow the crème brûlée to sit for at least five minutes before serving.
Now, I have a recipe for crème brûlée pie right here, and it is simple and pretty creamy, light, and tasty. However, this real, traditional crème brûlée is better than even that. It’s creamier and tastes less egg-y, and more vanilla-y. I do have to say that we used Kahlua Vanilla Liquer in place of the vanilla bean or extract, so that may have given us a richer flavor, as well.
Also, Chef Jackson said that it is also good to use brown sugar on top, for a richer flavor, and I think that is how I’ll do it when I make it at home. I love the rich flavor of brown sugar.
Next, we worked with Chef Kat from Tyler’s Village Bakery to make caramel to use in Turtles. You know, turtles? That luscious, chewy, chocolate-y, nutty confection that you love to eat at the holidays? Yes, we made those with Chef Kat. She first taught us how to make the caramel from scratch; none of this melting of pre-made candy caramels. It was fun! It’s not hard, but it does require your undivided attention.
Here’s how we did it:
Basic Caramel ~
2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup heavy cream
In a medium heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the sugar and cream of tartar with 1/2 cup water. Cook over high heat without stirring until sugar begins to melt and turn golden amber. (it was all I could do not to pick up a whisk and mess with it. If you stir it now, though, it will crystallize and ruin. The most you can do is swirl the pan a bit. ) You’ve really got to stand there for several minutes, watching the pot until it boils quickly, and then it will boil a bit more slowly as it thickens, and then you’ll see it start to turn from clear to a light-medium brown. Carefully now, pour the heavy cream down the side of the pan in a slow, steady stream, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until combined. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
The next step in making the turtles was melting the chocolate. You can use chocolate bars, broken into pieces, but it’s easier to use a couple of bags of chocolate chips, as they’ll melt more quickly for you. Place them in a bowl over a pot containing simmering (not fully boiling) water. Stir constantly and remove when the tiny chocolate pieces that are left are being melted by the liquid chocolate.
Arranging the turtles:
Place pecan halves (or chopped is ok) on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. The size of your circles of nuts will be the size of your turtles. (Turtles got their name when a candy maker put four pecan halves on the pan, poured over it the caramel and chocolate, and his staff commented to him that they looked like little turtles on the pan. There you have it!)
Next, pour over the pecans enough caramel to cover them, as seen in the next picture:
Then, you’ll use a large spoonful of melted chocolate to top the caramel:
Chef Kat suggested that, though we didn’t do it in class, we melt some white chocolate to drizzle over each turtle to make a pretty design. These would be such a nice gift for Christmas; put a half dozen or so in a bakery box and give to your favorite neighbors, teachers, pastors, etc.
My children were THRILLED when extra turtles came home with me Tuesday night! They loved the chewy sweetness with a crisp crunch of pecans on the bottom. I hope some of you are inspired to try these yourself ! Keep me posted!
By the way, next Tuesday night is our last class meeting. We’ll be doing a wine and cheese tasting and learning what wines to pair with different meals, etc. Please, don’t feel sorry for me.