I have a confession to make that may cause me to forfeit all my ES street cred……… I am not a huge fan of desserts. I admit I have found myself tempted to join the dark (chocolate) side after some of the recent recipes our new contributor Sweet Fiend provided, but typically the interest is just passing. Cakes, cookies, brownies etc… they just don’t do it for me. Some pears and honey or a digestif are much more my style. I also have never really had much interest in baking, with its need for precise measurements and specific recipes. These problems put me in a tough situation last week but my loss may be your gain as Valentine’s Day nears.
Wifey and I have gotten into the habit of regularly cooking a multi-course romantic meal, where we alternate who is responsible for each part. Last week, it was my turn to come up with a dessert to satisfy her substantial sweet tooth and I could not think of anything, so I started thumbing through an old cookbook and came across creme brulee and pot de creme. I had made both before, back when I first realized that Easy Mac was not really cooking. The beauty of these dishes is that once you get the basic ingredients and technique down, it is easy to play with the flavors as much as you want. Even I can’t resist a rich and silken dessert, where the end product is a lot more impressive than the steps to make it. While this was a perfect solution for us on a cold Sunday in January, it may also be the perfect fit for you and your Valentine. Also, it doesn’t hurt that you can make it beforehand and focus on a different sort of dessert.
Salted Hazelnut Creme Brulee
4 ounces hazelnuts, 4 large egg yolks, 1 large egg, 2 1/2 cups heavy cream, 2 tablespoons Frangelico
1. Toast hazlenuts by heating them for a few minutes in a skillet over medium heat. Remove and let cool slightly before grinding in a food processor until fine.
2. Slowly bring your cream to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t boil over, or just leave a wooden spoon resting in the pot so that the trapped steam can escape along the handle.
3. After steam is rising from the cream, stir in the hazelnuts, bring back to a boil, and remove from the heat to cool to room temperature.
4. At this point, begin preheating the oven to 325 degrees and boiling some water on the stove. While they start heating up, whisk together the egg and egg yolks until smooth. Slowly add the slightly cooled cream mixture, stirring throughout and then do the same with the Frangelico.
5. Depending on your preference you can skip this step but I worked the mixture through a strainer into a large bowl to remove the pieces of hazelnut so there would be no grit in the final dish.
6. The mixture smelled amazing already but I resisted the urge to chug it all and instead put a damp kitchen towel on the bottom of a deep baking dish and set 4 ramekins on it so they wouldn’t slide around. Fill ramekins with hazelnut-egg-cream mixture.
7. Pour your boiling water into the baking dish so that it is about halfway up the ramekins. Cover the dish with a sheet of aluminum foil and set in your preheated oven. These will cook for about 30 minutes or until the center is not quite set, but make sure you don’t overbake. Also be careful removing the ramekins from the water to let them cool.
8. Pop these in the refrigerator for a few hours to chill and then remove from the fridge about an hour before serving.
Right now you already have a velvety hazelnut pot de creme, but the kid in all of us wants even more sugar and the adult in us knows how to make that happen.
9. Sprinkle a 50/50 mix of Guarende sea salt and coarse sugar on top before popping the ramekins under the broiler.
You can serve these with homemade whipped cream, berries or chocolate sauce if you like but I suggest you save those for later and just serve your creme brulee with a hefty dose of Barry White.