Friday, March 4, 2011

Very Vanilla Creme Brulee with Vanilla~Brown Butter Pizzelles

Creme brulee, like it's cousins, is an egg-based custard, however, unlike it's cousins, this has become a very elegant dessert to serve.  I first enjoyed creme brulee with Kelly, when she moved to Connecticut, in the 90s at a restaurant in town.  We loved the hard cracked sugared topping that hid below it the most wonderful, creamy, rich-tasting custard we'd ever experienced.  I was hooked!

I wasn't really surprised that this dessert would become a favorite because my mother made egg custard for dessert and I couldn't wait to finish my dinner so I could have mine.  Like egg custard and Flan, creme brulee is baked in a ramekin in a water bath--slowly.  The basic ingredients are similar, but instead of whole milk in egg custard, you use heavy cream and always, just the yolk of the eggs.  I think of this as a custard that would be the perfect base to ice cream.  Also, whereas, Flan has the sugar based caramel on the bottom, that is revealed when turned out onto the plate, creme brulee has the sugar added on top and then torched to a hard crack stage.

I took advantage of the most fragrant vanilla beans I have, from my friends Jeanie and Chico, who import them from Tahiti, to add an intense burst of vanilla to my dessert for company coming for dinner.  I've also made chocolate, ginger, and banana creme brulee, but I think vanilla is definitely my favorite.  However, feel free to experiment with your favorite flavors with this recipe.

As if the creme brulee wasn't enough, I also made up a batch of Pizzelles to accompany the smoothness of the creme brulee with the crispness of a simple (but addictive) cookie.  I'm actually on my second pizzelle iron because my first one "pooped-out" from use.  I've been making Pizzelles since the early 70s when my next-door neighbor, who is of Italian decent, introduced me to them.  Typically, they have an anise flavored, which I love, but my girls didn't share that trait.  I've been adding vanilla to them instead (or sometimes chocolate or finely ground nuts) to appease their taste buds.  The last few years, I've also used this batter and the iron to create Stroopwaffles, which is a Dutch cookie that's similar to Pizzelles with the addition of a thin-spread of caramel between two of the cookies.  Stroopwaffles are great with a cup of coffee or tea, but I chose Pizzelles tonight to go with the creme brulee and pumped up their flavor with browning the butter and a good dose of vanilla. 

Very Vanilla Creme Brulee
3 1/4 cups Heavy Cream
2 Vanilla beans, split and scraped 

5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
Tubinado Raw Sugar for the topping

Special equipment:
4 or 6 ounce ceramic ramekins
Kitchen torch

Preheat oven to 300F-degrees and prepare a 9" x 13" baking, with a kitchen towel on the bottom (if you don't have a rack).
In a medium sauce pan, over a low heat, combine the heavy cream and the vanilla beans and bring to just below a  boil (you should see bubbles appear around the edges of the cream).  Turn off heat and let steep 15 to 20 minutes.  In the meantime, separate the eggs, reserving the whites for another recipe (I plan on making French macaroons).  Also, have a tea kettle filled with water, heating on the stove.
Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and salt until lightly colored.  Place the cream mixture back on the stove top and reheat again until bubbles appear around the edges.  Remove from the heat and gradually add it to the egg yolk mixture, whisking thoroughly while you're pouring the cream.
Strain the custard into a large (4 cup +) glass measure with a spout--this will make it easy to pour into the ramekins.  
I selected 6-ounce ramekins, so this recipe will make 4 desserts.  However, you can do the 4-ounce and get 6 to 8 desserts.  Pour into the ramekins, then add boiling water half-way up the sides of the ramekins.
Cover the pan, lightly, with aluminum foil, and place on the middle rack of the preheated oven.  Bake 40 to 45 minutes until the edges are set.  For the smaller ramekins, bake 30 to 35 minutes.
Remove from the oven and carefully transfer the ramekins to a rack to cool completely.  Cover each ramekin individually with plastic wrap; this will create the necessary "moistness" to allow the sugar to adhere to the top.
Just before serving, sprinkle the tops with the Turbinado sugar and use the kitchen torch (as directed) to melt it.
Add a few raspberries for garnish and you have a very elegant dessert!

Vanilla~Brown Butter Pizzelles
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and browned 
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped or 1 T vanilla extract
1 T + 1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Special Equipment:
Pizzelle maker 

Preheat the Pizzelle iron while you make up the batter.
As directed (in a previous post) melt and brown the butter--set aside to cool slightly.
In the KitchenAid, using a paddle attachment, or a large mixing bowl with a hand-held mixer, beat the eggs until frothy.  Gradually add the sugar and beat until well combined.  Slowly pour the brown butter into this mixture, while the mixer is running.  Add the vanilla beans or extract and beat well.

Add the flour, baking powder and salt to the batter and beat just to combine.  The batter will resemble a thick pancake batter.
 I use a tablespoon-sized scoop to measure out the batter onto the hot iron.  I can bake two at a time.

Once the indicator light goes off, the pizzelles are done.
Use a small spatula to remove them to a rack to cool completely.
As you can see, while they're warm, the pizzelles can be formed into any shape.  I sometimes place them in a small bowl and then you have a cup to put ice cream with fresh strawberries over it--YUM!

Both of these desserts are simple to make, but can have your family and guests say YUM also.  With a couple of gadgets--Pizzelle iron and a kitchen torch, these recipes are worth adding to your file. Enjoy!



  1. Ohhhh Susan! Even though I am a seriously addicted dark chocolate devotee, a really good vanilla Creme Brulee’ is my favorite dessert! I like it served at room temperature or slightly warm, but never cold. The torched sugar must be thin, crisp and lightly brown. I like to crack the shell and see that yummy golden custard ooze through the opening.:D Recently I ordered creme brulee and the chef had sliced a really ripe strawberry on top, placed the sugar over that, then torched it. It was awesome! I also LUV Pizzelles and purchase them at my local grocery store. I think I must invest in a Pizzelle iron and try your recipe. Do you like a particular brand?
    Love and hugs,

    PS: I wonder if my love of creme brulee and flan is connected to my childhood memories of southern egg custard pie? I still love it but don't make it as frequently as I might because E prefers chocolate, pecan, and key lime pies.

  2. Mary, I bought mine at King Arthur (of course)--it's by Chef's Choice and you can probably find them elsewhere as well. Well worth making homemade pizzelles!

  3. I just had creme brule Friday night too! And I remember having an unending supply of pizzelles -I think you made them every week it seems!

  4. The Creme Brulee looks wonderful---I have never had it and I don't think I should attempt to make it. But, I do love Pizzelles especially flavored with anise. And I do have a Pizzelle iron---although I haven't used it lately--you have inspired me to get it out and make these wonderful treats! Love & Hugs, Barb