The last crème brûlée I had on the menu didn’t exactly fly out the door. It was tarragon and was quite tasty, but perhaps a tad too strange for the masses. It came time to change the menu recently and since it had been a while since we did a crème brûlée, that’s what my chef wanted. I wanted to do an apple crisp, because I love apple desserts and the Honeycrisps have been really sweet, juicy and down right delicious. I smooshed the two ideas into this roasted apple crème brûlée. One customer even said it was the best apple dessert he had ever had. And no, the customer was not myself or one of my relatives or friends (though my friend Matt did love it).
Roasted Apple Crème Brûlée
makes about a quart and serving size can vary to your whim
First, for the roasted apples. Peel, core and cut your desired amount of apples into a quarter-inch dice. Toss the diced apples with enough melted butter, brown sugar to taste, a good dousing of lemon juice and a hearty sprinkle of salt. Spread the apples out on a sheet pan lined with a Silpat. You have to use a Silpat— the apples will stick to anything else. Roast the apples at 400º until they have caramelized nicely, rotating the pan every so often. This will take longer than you think it should, so be patient. The flavor is truly something when you let them really get nicely gilded. Let the apples cool completely and then containerize them in the fridge for later.
Now for the crème brûlée base...
3 - 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 - 1/2” stick of true cinnamon
7 egg yolks
1 whole egg
6 oz (a scant cup) sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup apple brandy
Flake the true cinnamon into a saucepan and add the cream. Bring this just to a simmer, stirring often, then remove it from the heat. Whisk the yolks, whole egg, sugar and salt together (don’t go gangbusters and whip them up). Whisk in the apple brandy and temper in the hot cream. Allow this mixture to cool and chill out. You’ll have a smoother crème if you let the base rest overnight.
When you’re ready to bake the suckers, heat up your oven to 300º. Strain the crème brûlée base of the cinnamon. Put a good amount of the roasted diced apples in the bottom of your choice vessels. Gently pour the crème base over the apples to within a quarter-inch of the top. Place your choice vessels in baking dish or roasting pan. Bring the pan to the oven and set in on the rack. Pour some hot water into the pan, just enough to barely come up the sides of your vessels. Gently slide the rack into the oven and cover the pan with a sheet pan as a lid. This is how I do it, because I hate covering things with foil. When you go to check them, the foil always tears or flies off or hits the custard and doesn’t go back on right. What’s the point? Just put a lid on it.
I can't tell you how long these will take. If a recipe for crème brûlée tells you a time, they are wrong. Crème brûlée will take as long as it takes. They will not be done all the same time, and one day they will take fifteen minutes and the next they will take an hour and half. Crème brûlée is like a cat, it lives on it’s own schedule. You will just have to keep checking them every so often. The most important thing is to not over bake them!!! “But, good lord, how will I know?!” Be still, child, when you jiggle the baking pan gently, the crème brûlée should jiggle like softly set Jell-O— as a whole, no waves. If you are ever in doubt about a baked custard being done, think to your self, “Does it jiggle like Jell-O?” It honestly helps to have this visualization in mind. It’s never let me down.
Cool and chill the crème brûlée completely. When ready to serve them, caramelize the tops as you do with these puppies, top with the pecan coconut crumble and Bob’s (evidently) your uncle!!
Pecan Coconut Crumble
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 - 1/2 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
6 oz cool butter
1/2 chopped pecans
1/2 shredded coconut (I use unsweetened)
In a mixing bowl, combine the flours, oats, sugar, cinnamon, salt and butter. With the paddle attachment, mix to cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly like streusel. Mix in the pecans and coconut. With your hand, squeeze the mixture together to form some larger chunks. Spread the streusel on a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake at 350º until golden. When cool, break the crumble up. This will make way more than you will need, but it’s a good topping for ice cream, yogurt, etc...
We are using Applejack for the apple brandy. We thought Calvados was too strident.