White Chocolate & Vanilla Bean Creme Brûlée
WHITE CHOCOLATE CREME BRULEE
This sweet, silken baked custard is very easy to make, and the slightly bitter toffee notes from the burnt sugar on top help cut the sweetness of the white chocolate.
The most common mistake I see home bakers make with creme brûlée is not cooking for long enough. The more shallow the ramekin or flan dish, the quicker they will bake, the deeper the pot the longer they will take. Just because a recipe suggests cooking for 25 minutes, it doesn't mean that's how long it will take in your oven with your baking dishes. Don't be afraid to bake longer if the creme is still liquid when wobbled. Experiment with baking times until you work out the right cooking time for your oven, and your ramekin. You might find it takes an hour.
Lets take the opportunity talk about white chocolate, since it's the star of these little desserts.
"White chocolate isn't really chocolate".
This is a statement I hear very often. People love to share their opinions about chocolate with me. I especially love (note the sarcasm), those who go out of their way to come inside my store, to share with me the fact that they don't eat chocolate ... they don't even like it. Ummmm, ok. Pretty sure you're not in the right place then. I smile and nod.
Is white chocolate really chocolate? I don't think the answer is black and white. So to speak.
White chocolate consists pretty much of fat and sugar. Which is why it is so tasty for so many people. But not all white chocolates are equal. If you do indulge in white chocolate, I can't urge you enough to read the ingredients labels, and understand what you're consuming. So what are you looking for?
A higher grade white chocolate will contain sugar, milk, natural vanilla, often a binding agent to hold the ingredients together (particularly the fat particles) like soy lecithin, and very most importantly cocoa butter. This is the magic ingredient.
Cocoa butter is the fat component of the cacao bean, which is used to make chocolate. A dutchman, Van Houten made the discovery in 1828, and found that if cacao mass (made by simply grinding the shelled cacao bean into a warm squishy paste) was put under pressure in a cocoa butter press, the clear/yellowish, warm, liquid fat could be drizzled out of the mass. This cocoa butter would then set to a white coloured hard buttery consistency when it was no longer warm. The dry mass which has had the cocoa butter pressed out of it, now known as a 'cocoa cake', could then be ground into cocoa powder. Ever heard of Van Houten cocoa? Now you know.
Cocoa butter melts at our body temperature. It is responsible for the pleasurable 'melt in the mouth' feel of a high grade chocolate. It's an expensive commodity, and is sought after by the pharmaceutical industry and the cosmetic industry, apart from the seductive charm it holds for the food industry.
A good quality white chocolate will have around 30% cocoa butter content. So that's almost a third of the finished product that comes from the cacao tree. I'd argue that makes it a chocolate product. Cocoa butter will be the only fat in the ingredients label on a good quality white chocolate.
Alternatively, a low grade white chocolate will contain NO cocoa butter. It will contain the other ingredients, sugar, milk, an emulsifier, and often vanillan (which is an artificial vanilla). The cocoa butter however, will be replaced with Palm Oil (which in Australia on our labels, may just be listed as 'vegetable oil'). Palm oil is a hydrogenated vegetable fat, a trans fat, which is not a healthy fat for human consumption. Without even beginning to discuss the environmental impact of unsustainable palm oil production (think those harrowing photos of loss of habitat for orang-utans) ... I'd argue palm oil in your chocolate is not a recommendation I'd make. And if the white chocolate contains no cocoa butter in the ingredients ... there is nothing in the product that comes from the cacao tree. I would argue this product is not chocolate, but more of a chocolate flavoured confection.
WHITE CHOCOLATE CREME BRULEE
For a print friendly recipe, click here!
500g thickened cream
90g free range egg yolks (around 5 large egg yolks)
65g caster sugar
1 large free range egg
½ scraped vanilla bean pod - seeds only
100g white chocolate callets/buttons or finely chopped (high quality!)
Preheat oven to 160°deg C (150°C fan forced)
Beat egg yolks and sugar together until a light fluffy liaison is created.
Bring cream, with vanilla bean seeds almost to boil, add white chocolate, stir until melted.
Pour hot cream mixture slowly onto egg/sugar mixture, whilst beating, to temper the eggs.
Strain mixture into pouring jug.
Pour mixture into ramekins/baking dishes, keeping mixture fairly shallow.
Place ramekins in deep sided baking tray, and fill carefully with hot water, until water level reaches ½ way up ramekins.
Cook until the crème is just barely wobbly, then refrigerate until cold.
When cold, sprinkle the surface with caster sugar, and caramelise with a brulee torch/gun.
SWITCH IT UP
Creamy coffee: Bring 550g thickened cream to boil and Infuse with 50g of whole coffee beans for 15mins. Strain away coffee beans, and top up with more cream if necessary until 500g cream is reached and continue with recipe as above.
Berries & cream: Add whole fresh raspberries, blackberries and/or blueberries to the ramekins after the cream mix has been poured in, dotting around randomly.