Sunday, April 3, 2011

Crème Brûlée--Coconut Flavored

Crème brûlée. I don't think I have ever met anyone who did not like it. It is probably the most favorite dessert among women. Whenever I am having a restaurant dinner with my girl friends we always look for it in the menu. But unfortunately it is not always equally good. As with any such classic desserts there is always a little secret in making it perfect.

The best crème brûlée I have ever had was at the Ritz Carlton restaurant in Pentagon City. I am not sure they still have the same chef and if that crème brûlée is still on their menu, but ever since I had it, every time I dip my spoon in a ramekin filled with that creamy yellow delight I am hoping it will taste exactly like that one. It was a coconut crème brûlée but without any coconut flakes. It was unimaginably creamy and delicate, just with a hint of the coconut flavor.

I have been searching many recipes, trying to imagine if any of them could possibly have what I was looking for. It did not have to be exactly the coconut crème brûlée, but it had to have the same smoothness and richness. I think that the secret of the good crème brûlée lies in getting the right proportion of eggs and cream, so that the eggs, which are so important in that dessert, do not dominate the taste. Another secret of course is in getting the right method of preparing it.

Yesterday, I made crème brûlée according to a recipe from a very old British Good Housekeeping magazine. Actually, there were two recipes, one for a basic crème brûlée and another one for a coconut crème brûlée, which I decided to do first.

Last night I served it for dessert to my friends. And although it was mainly a male company, they all liked it very much. I admit that the taste of it was amazing--all the ingredients blended into a wonderfully delicious cream which contrasted nicely with the crunchiness of the burned sugar crust. But those who did not try the Ritz Carlton crème brûlée, could not notice that it missed a little bit of that perfect smoothness.

Crème brûlée requires many egg yolks, but in the end it does not taste too "eggy". Save the whites in refrigerator--they can be used in many other desserts.

When preparing crème brûlée, you must observe two rules that are critical for its quality. First, pay attention not to boil the egg and cream mixture--you need to stop heating it just before the boiling point. Also, make sure to bake it properly, so it achieves the right consistency--not to loose but not over baked. The whole preparation takes some practice, but the result is worth the sin.

Crème Brûlée Coconut Flavored
(Makes 6-8 servings depending on your ramekins size)

6 eggs yolks
2 and 1/3 cup (one British pint) of heavy whipping cream,
1/4 cup sugar,
2 oz (one cup) of coconut cream powder,
6-8 tsp brown sugar.

1. Put egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl and, using a whisker or electric mixer, beat for about 2-3 minutes, until they become pale.
2. Pour the cream into a medium saucepan, add the coconut cream powder and mix well.
3. Heat the mixture until it is hot but take it off the heat before it reaches the boiling point.
4. Whisking continuously pour the hot cream into the yolk mixture and transfer it (the custard) back to the pot.
5. Cook over the medium heat, whisking continuously until the mixture thickens, but again do not let it boil because the custard will curdle. The right consistency is when the custard coats the spatula.

6. Preheat oven to 300F.
7. Take the custard from the heat and pour into the ramekins. Place them in a roasting tin with high walls. Pour hand-hot water into the tin, half way up the height of the ramekins and place it in the oven.
8. Bake for 30-35 minutes, but as the temperature is not always accurately displayed you have to judge it yourself when you stop--the cream should be set but still slightly wobbly, although not runny. If in doubt, you may bake it for a little longer.

9. Take from the oven, cool down, and later refrigerate. Steps 1-9 can be made even a day ahead and the baked custard can kept in the refrigerator overnight.
10. Sprinkle (one teaspoon per ramekin) of brown sugar on top each of the baked custard it melt under the hot broiler. Watch this process carefully, as the sugar may burn easily--it should be melted and brown.

11. Cool slightly and serve.