Chocolate Creme Brulees
What chocolate mousse was to the 1960s, crème brûlée was to the 1990s, as it seemed to be on almost every restaurant menu. It's truly a great British classic that easily lends itself to variations like this one – a smooth, velvety chocolate custard topped with a very crunchy caramel.
Because of the vagaries of domestic grills, I've done a cheat's version of the caramel topping, or there's an alternative using a cook's blow torch (see below).
This recipe is taken from How to Cook Book Two and The Delia Collection: Chocolate.
Start the crème brûlées the day before you want to serve them. Place the broken-up chocolate, along with 5 fl oz (150 ml) of the cream, in a large heatproof bowl sitting over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn't touch the water. Then, keeping the heat at its lowest, allow the chocolate to melt slowly – it should take 5-6 minutes. Remove it from the heat and give it a good stir until it's smooth and glossy, then remove the bowl from the pan and let the mixture cool for 2-3 minutes.
After that, whisk the egg yolks, caster sugar and cornflour together in a separate bowl for about 2 minutes, or until they are thick and creamy. Now, in a separate pan, heat the remaining cream just up to simmering point and pour it over the egg-yolk mixture, whisking as you pour. Return the whole lot to the pan and continue to stir over a gentle heat until it thickens – this will take 2-3 minutes.
Next, whisk the melted chocolate and cream together until completely smooth, add a little of the custard mixture to it and continue to whisk it in. After that, add the remaining custard, whisking until everything is really smooth. Then divide the custard between the ramekins, making sure you leave a ½ inch (1 cm) space at the top for the caramel. Now leave them to cool, cover the pots with clingfilm and chill overnight in the fridge.
A few hours before serving the brûlées, make the caramel. To do this, put the granulated sugar in a small saucepan, place it over a medium heat and leave it like that, keeping an eye on it. When the sugar begins to melt around the edges, and just starts to turn liquid – which will take 4-6 minutes – give the pan a good shake and leave it again to melt until it's about a quarter melted.
Now, using a wooden spoon, give it a gentle stir and then continue to cook until the sugar has transformed from crystals to liquid and is the right colour – amber or like dark runny honey. Keep stirring gently until you're sure all the sugar has dissolved. The whole thing should take 10-15 minutes.
Now remove the pan from the heat, remove the clingfilm and pour the caramel over the custards, covering the surface of each one. Tilt the ramekins gently from side to side to get an even, thin covering of caramel, then leave them for a few minutes for the caramel to harden, and cover them loosely with foil (don't use clingfilm, or the moisture from the brûlées will soften the caramel). Return them to the fridge until needed.
These also freeze well, but do this before the caramel is added. In this case, put the caramel on them after removing the custards from the freezer, but as the caramel will set almost immediately, tilt the ramekins from side to side as soon as you've poured the caramel over each one to distribute it evenly.
Allow them to soften in the fridge for 2 hours before serving. You can use a blow torch to get a much thinner layer of caramel if you prefer.
Simply sprinkle 1 rounded teaspoon of golden caster sugar over each ramekin of chocolate custard and, using a water spray, first mist the surface lightly – this will help the sugar to caramelise quickly without burning. Now, using sweeping movements, pass the flame of the blow torch across each brûlée until the sugar melts and caramelises.
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