I rarely order crème brûlée when I am at a restaurant. I always opt for the more ‘creative’ dessert option and to be honest, I would most likely skip dessert if the menu options were only crème brûlée, chocolate mousse, profiteroles, and a slice of apple tart. This does not mean I dislike crème brûlée. Every time I do have crème brûlée, I am reminded of why it is a classic and why I should order it more often. It is creamy. It is rich. It is has textural contrast. It is speckled with beautiful flecks of vanilla bean.
These crème brûlée cream puffs are a new take on the classic French dessert. It is choux pastry with craquelin (the craquelin is optional because you remove a large amount of it when you remove the tops of the puff, but I find that craquelin helps the puff rise more evenly and craquelin is always delicious) filled with a super velvety and rich vanilla custard. The custard can be made with just whole milk but I find that using a 3:1 ratio of whole milk to heavy cream produces the best custard. After the puffs are filled to the brim with custard, sugar is sprinkled on top, and it is then torched to create a crunchy caramelized sugar layer. If you do not have a torch handy, you can sprinkle the sugar and place the puffs in the oven under the broil setting while keeping a close eye on them. Once the caramelized sugar had set, tackle it like how you would a classic crème brûlée — take a spoon to break the sugar shell to reveal the creamy filling.
Today’s post is a little different! Going forward, I am going to try to incorporate more video elements into recipes where it makes sense that I do a step-by-step demo. This would mean a few less photos, but a lot more fun videos like me torching crème brûlée! Please bare with me and these very amateurishly recorded videos — I promise they will get better with each post!
- 250 ml (1 cup) whole milk
- 250 ml (1 cup) heavy cream
- 1 vanilla bean
- 4 egg yolks
- 50 g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 25 g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
- 25 g (2 tbsp) brown sugar
- 25 g (4 tbsp) all-purpose flour
Pâte à Choux
- 57 mL (1/4 cup) water
- 57 mL (1/4 cup) whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 57 g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
- 70 g (1/2 cup and 2 tbsp) all-purpose flour
- 110 g (~2 1/2 eggs) large eggs, lightly beaten
- Combine milk and cream in a small saucepan. Using a sharp knife, split vanilla bean in half lengthways and scrape out seeds. Add bean and seeds to milk mixture. Place over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until hot (do not allow to boil). Remove saucepan from heat.
- Whisk egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch, in a heatproof bowl until well combined. Slowly pour hot milk mixture over egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.
- Return mixture to saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 6 – 8 minutes, or until custard thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon.
- Transfer the custard into a large bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the custard (to prevent a film from forming). Transfer the bowl into the fridge and chill for 3 hours, or until the the custard is no longer hot.
- In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and mix with rubber spatula until smooth.
- Roll out the craquelin dough to 1/8-inch in thickness. Use a cookie cutter and cut out 12 2-inch circles. Set aside.
Pâte à Choux
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- In a saucepan, combine the water, milk, sugar, salt, and butter. Bring to a light boil, remove from heat, and immediately add in all the flour. Quickly stir in the flour, using a rubber spatula, and return saucepan back over medium-high heat.
- Continue to stir the mixture, without stopping, until the paste is smooth, about 1-2 minutes. It will pull away from the sides of the pan and leave a thin coating of cooked paste on the bottom when ready. The texture should resemble dry mashed potatoes.
- Transfer the paste to a stand mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low for the choux to cool down.
- While the mixer is running on medium, gradually stream in the lightly beaten eggs. Mix until well combined.
- Transfer the pâte à choux to the prepared piping bag with a round tip. Pipe out 12 choux mounds onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving roughly 2 inches between each puff. If you are making choux with a craquelin top, this is when you want to add the craquelin to the choux mounds.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately bake choux puffs for 35 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet and turn down the oven to 325F, then bake for 10 minutes more until choux are deeply golden. Remove from oven and set on cooling rack to cool.
- Trim the tops off of the cooled choux pastry with a sharp serrated knife. Set the tops aside.
- Transfer the chilled vanilla custard into a piping bag fitted with a large round piping tip. Alternatively, you can use a spoon to to fill the puffs. Pipe the custard into the puffs until it reaches the brim. Use the back of a spoon or offset spatula to smooth out the custard if necessary.
- Sprinkle granulated sugar on top of the custard of the filled puff. Using a torch, brûlée the top of the puff until the sugar is deeply golden brown. The sugar should be bubbling and caramelizing. Allow the sugar to cool and set.
- Serve immediately!