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Coffee-Infused Crème Brûlée

Make-ahead, indulgent, company-worthy comfort food. Without a doubt, that’s what I’m talkin’ about in this coffee-lover’s dessert.

Traditional crème brûlée – or burnt cream – is rich custard topped with a layer of crisp, caramelized sugar. But when you infuse the creamy custard with assertive coffee flavor, something extra special happens. And it’s easy to do. Simply create coffee syrup by heating brewed coffee on the stove top to reduce the amount of liquid. The result is a coffee concentrate with high flavor impact.

If you’ve always wanted to make crème brûlée at home but haven’t tried, the steps are simply outlined in this recipe. And caramelizing the sugar topping with a small torch, in and of itself, has a fun factor. Best of all, you can check decadent, crowd-pleasing dessert off the menu several days before serving!

Coffee Crème Brûlée (krehm broo-LAY) 

CBBlog400Coffee Syrup:
2 cups strongly-brewed Community® coffee

Custard:
2 cups half-and-half
6 large egg yolks
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Topping:
2-3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Coffee Syrup

In medium saucepan, boil coffee (about 30 minutes) until it is reduced to ¼ cup. Remove from heat; set aside.

Custard

In microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl, heat half-and-half just to a simmer in microwave (or in medium saucepan over medium-high heat); do not boil. Meanwhile, in large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and ½ cup sugar.

Very slowly, whisk a small amount of hot half-and-half into egg mixture to temper eggs. Continue to slowly whisk the half-and-half into the egg mixture. Stir in vanilla and reserved coffee syrup.

Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup or bowl. Pour into 6 (4-oz.) ramekins or custard cups, evenly dividing. Place ramekins in a 13” X 9” glass baking pan. Carefully add very hot water to baking pan (do not spill into custard) so water level is half way up sides of ramekins.

Bake about 1 hour, or until center of custard is just set but still jiggles or quivers. Remove baking pan from oven; place individual custards on wire rack to cool completely. Cover ramekins and chill for 4 hours or several days. 

Topping

Place uncovered ramekins on baking sheet. Use a paper towel to dab away any moisture on top of custard. Evenly sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons sugar on top of each custard. Using a small blowtorch several inches from top of custard, evenly melt and brown the sugar by moving flame back and forth to create a crisp, caramelized topping.

Notes:​

  • This recipe makes 6 servings.
  • The coffee syrup may be made several days ahead and refrigerated
  • I’ve lightened this dessert a bit by using half-and-half instead of heavy cream. It has a lovely creamy, smooth texture – minus an extra few grams of fat.
  • Save egg whites when separating from yolks and use for omelets, meringue, scrambled eggs, etc.
  • Slowly adding hot half-and-half to the egg and sugar mixture will gradually acclimate the eggs to heat and will dissolve the sugar. This process is called tempering.
  • Surrounding the ramekins in a hot water bath insulates the custard from too much heat and helps prevent overcooking.
  • If you don’t own a kitchen blowtorch, consider buying one. They’re simple to use, and your guests will have fun trying it out to finish making their own dessert!
  • To caramelize the topping without a kitchen blowtorch, simply place the sugar-topped ramekins on a baking sheet and broil, carefully watching and turning until evenly browned.
  • Check out “Don’t Just Sip … Eat Your Coffee!” for more ideas on using coffee as an ingredient in cooking and baking.

Beth Witherspoon, MPH, RDN, has a passion for communicating culinary and nutrition information. She is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who consults with Community Coffee Company to help communicate the flavor and health benefits of coffee.