Of all the desserts in the world, Creme Brulee walked into my life when I least expected it.
I was 11, having a fancy meal with my father and sister, and he'd ordered a Vanilla bean creme brulee for dessert. At first I thought it was just like caramel custard, only upside down, but one spoonful, it was as if a memory had been made. I licked the spoon and asked if I could order my own. And when it did arrive, I wiped the bowl clean. The blow torch fascinated me and I was warned, any closer to the torch I might just blow up.
Over the years, I've eaten a lot of different kinds of creme brulee. But that particular one, I can still taste that fabulously light custard with a hint of vanilla and that crackling of sugar. It was perhaps the single most grown up dessert I'd ever eaten. For many years now, there's nothing more I'd wanted than a blowtorch so that I could make my creme brulee at home. I've asked so many people for it, that I've now totally lost count. But last year, when I went home to Chennai, I found it at Passionate Baking at Anna Nagar.
So thrilled was I, that I picked one up for my friend Amrita as well. And since have made creme brulee thrice. The first time I made some, I used Dorie Greenspan's tried and tested Creme Brulee recipe and used up lots of vanilla bean. The second time, I used some orange zest and Cointreau.
This Creme Brulee - was inspired after a brief meeting with Chef Vicky Ratnani who was in Delhi for a tea and food pairing session by Typhoo at The Park Hotel. He talked about how he used tea to flavour different kinds of food - including making stock, using it as poaching liquid and even substituting it in the liquid for cous cous.
Typhoo gave us this brilliant box of teas - that included a fabulous orange spice tea, an amazing earl grey and super Moroccan Mint tea. I however decided to venture out of my comfort zone and decided to work with Masala tea. And Creme Brulee just made so much sense.
I used the Dorie Method, that is baking it at a very low temperature rather than bain-marieing it. And before I can change your mind, let me tell you that each time, this method makes the creamiest of creamy brulees.
Remember to poke the air bubbles if you are unable to tap them out and to check the oven after 40 minutes, also while working with tea, it;s important to note that you cannot possibly steep the tea for more than 3 minutes otherwise it will release tannins and ruin the entire dessert. Oh and you can use any kind of sugar you'd like, I used this red just for fun.
Oh and lastly, if you don't have a blow torch, don't worry, just broil the brulee after sugaring it on very high heat and then take it out of the oven and plunge it into cold water.
Masala Chai and White Chocolate Creme Brulee
Adapted from Pham Fatale's blog
Serves 4 to 6
3/4 cup cream
3/4 cup milk
4 tblsp sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
2 sticks cinnamon
2 masala chai tea bags
1/2 cup white chocolate - melted and cooled
4 -6 tblsp sugar for the topping
1. In a saucepan boil the milk and cream along with the cinnamon and cloves. Turn off the heat and throw in the masala chai tea bags. Let it steep for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the tea bags
2. Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks with the sugar and vanilla extract, till creamy.
3. Pour some of the hot concoction into the egg yolks to temper it and then add the remaining hot milk mixture.
4. Add the white chocolate bits to it, stir well. Do not whisk. If you whisk you'll get air bubbles and that's a problem.
5. Strain into ramekins and bake in a pre-heated oven at 110 degrees for 50-60 minutes
6. Once its set yet jiggly, remove and let it cool completely before wrapping in clingfilm and letting it set for 4 to 12 hours.
7. When you're ready to eat, sprinkle one tablespoon of sugar evenly on top of the ramekin and the blister it with the blow torch.
8. Crack and enjoy.