White Chocolate Cranberry Creme Brulee Puddings

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Creme brulee 4

During Thanksgiving, I wanted to make a bruleed pumpkin pie.  That’s where the problems began.

Problem 1: I didn’t own a brulee torch.  I posted a plea to facebook, offering to make a pie for anyone who would lend me a brulee torch.  No takers – except my mother.  Because I was making the pumpkin pie (as well as two other pies) for our family’s Thanksgiving meal, my mom took pity on me and bought the torch. Problem 1 solved.

Problem 2: I pulled the gleaming torch out of the box, excited to start bruleeing – only to realize that it didn’t come with fuel (which, in hindsight, makes sense.  A display full of fueled torches is an accident waiting to happen.)  A trip to Home Depot and a can of butane remedied the fuel problem, only to reveal another one.

Problem 3: The torch wouldn’t work.  I still have no idea why.  A trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond and a replacement torch remedied that problem.  Annnd it was time to brulee!

My friends, it was a magical experience.  Everyone should own a brulee torch.  The pie turned out fantastically, and I’ve been looking for another excuse to use the torch ever since.  These White Chocolate Cranberry Creme Brulees were just right.

Holy cow, these were good!  The original recipe called for canned cranberry sauce, but I wanted to make something less sweet than the store-bought version.  So I turned to a recipe that I’ve been making for the past seven years and lightened up the sugar.  The tartness of the cranberries and the crunch of the bruleed lid offset the vanilla custard perfectly.  Be sure that you plan ahead and leave plenty of  time for them to refrigerate, otherwise they won’t set up.  As it is, they don’t firm up very well – they’re more like a creme brulee pudding than a firm custard.  But they taste great, so I don’t see the problem

May you and yours have a peaceful and blessed Christmas!

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White Chocolate Cranberry Creme Brulee 
creme brulee slightly adapted from Southern Living, cranberry sauce adapted from Cooking Light
makes six servings

Cranberry Sauce
1 (12 oz) package fresh cranberries
3/8 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup water
1 tbs. honey
1/8 tsp. allspice
1 3-inch cinnamon stick

Creme Brulee
2 cups whipping cream, divided
4 oz. white chocolate
1 tsp. vanilla bourbon* or 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp. bourbon
half of a vanilla bean
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar, divided

1. Make the cranberry sauce.  Rinse off the berries and remove any that are soft.  Place all the cranberry sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Discard the cinnamon stick.

2. Make the creme brulee.  Break up the chocolate and combine it 1/2 cup of the cream in a medium saucepan.  Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds, then add the seeds and the split bean to the saucepan.  Cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes, until the chocolate melts, stirring constantly.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the remaining cream and the vanilla bourbon (or vanilla and bourbon).  Discard the vanilla bean.

3. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the egg yolks with 1/4 cup of the sugar until the mixture is thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes.  Add the cream mixture and whisk until blended.

4. Preheat the oven to 300 F.  Place 1 1/2  to 2 tbs. of the cranberry sauce in each of six ramekins, and spread the sauce over the bottom. Divide the brulee mixture evenly between the ramekins.

5. Place the ramekins in a large roasting pan and fill the pan with enough water to come up about 1/2 inch on the ramekins.  (I had to use two pans because the ramekins didn’t all fit in one.)  Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until the edges are set.  Remove the pans from the oven and let the custards cool in the pan for 25 minutes.  Remove the custards from the water bath, cover, and refrigerate for 8 hours.

6. Before serving, scatter 2 tsp. of sugar over each custard.  Melt and caramelize the sugar with a blow torch.  If you don’t have a blow torch, you can place the custards in an ice bath in the roasting pan and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, until the sugar is caramelized.

*You can make vanilla bourbon by placing a split vanilla bourbon in a small container of vanilla and letting it sit for several weeks. The longer it sits, the stronger the vanilla flavoring becomes. You can use this in place of vanilla extract in some recipes.

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