Friday, March 16, 2012

Prune Armagnac Crème Brûlée

Last year I got one of those little mini kitchen blow torches, but up until yesterday had never used it.

The above picture of just one layer of sugar caramelized.  The recipe from Kate Zuckerman that I used called for 2. It would have made the layer thicker and more consistent, but I was just so happy to have accomplished this I left well enough alone.

This is my adaptation of Kate's recipe.  It's serves 4 although I think you could easily split one of this between two people especially if you serve short bread or some lace cookies in addition.

Prune Armagnac Crème Brûlée

Chop 4 or 5 pitted prunes in half, cut each half into four strips, place them into a small mason jar or other container with a lid that will seal tightly and add 2 or 3 Tablespoons of Armagnac or brandy. Let macerate over night or longer.  Always good to have on hand.

In 4 ramekins (4 ounces - any shape you like) divide up the Armagnac soaked prune slices and place them in the center of each ramekin.
In a small heavy bottomed sauce pan heat up a tiny pinch of cream of tartar, 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 Tablespoons of water.  Bring to a slow boil and cook until golden about 3-5 minutes, once the color has started to change and caramelize immediately take it off the heat and pour a little of over mound of prunes. 

Preheat the oven to 325 F

Separate 4 large Eggs, keep the eggs whites for another use.  Place the yolks in a small bowl and whisk in 3 Tablespoons of sugar.

In a medium heavy bottom pot pour 2 cups Heavy Cream and add 3 Tablespoons of sugar. Over medium high heat bring the cream mixture to just to a simmer the promptly remove from heat.  Add 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla and 1 Teaspoon of Armagnac.

A few tablespoons at a time add the hot cream mixture into the eggs yolks.  After you have added half of it you can pour in a steady, slow, stream the remainder, whisking all the time.

Ladle the custard mixture into the prepared ramekins.

Place the prepared ramekins into a shallow baking dish and fill with water until about 1/2 inch from the top.

Place in the oven and baked for 40 minutes or so - the custard when done will be fully set and no be wobbly in the center.  Remove from the oven and remove from the water being very careful not spil any water on the custard - I use a flipper and an oven mitted hand.

Cool.  When room temp put them in the fridge over night.

When ready to make the burnt sugar tops make sure the tops of the custards are dry.  In my experimentation with this I discovered less sugar is better.  After you have done one layer you can do another and it's best to use the sugar very sparingly,  melt it with the blow torch and then add more.  I used a good Tablespoon all at once and it didn't melt properly, so I had lumps of burnt melted sugar and lots of untouched granulated sugar.  Not a pretty sight.  Much better on my second try.

You can try to melt the sugar under a broiler or forget about it all together and just dust some powdered sugar over the custards.  Also when baking the custards you may choose to cover them with a cookie sheet or tin foil, if the later punch some holes in it.  I didn't cover mine.

This is a picture of the one that I added too much sugar too and didn't melt well:
I'm going to have to make more so I can improve my technique.

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