I have a question for the world: Is there any use for a brûlée torch other than brûlée-ing? I hear that you can use the broiler and get the same effect, but that’s just not true. I did use the broiler this time, and it’s pretty close, but I’ll admit that the crust didn’t get evenly crisp like I wanted it to. Armed with a brûlée torch, this dessert might change your life. It’s like a sugar cookie dipped in a cup of creamy coffee. Crème brûlée might be the easiest dessert to make that will definitely impress whoever you’re serving. It’s delicious in its simplicity, and I will be the first to tell you that a plain crème brûlée made with fresh ingredients is very hard to beat. But this coffee vanilla cardamom version is something else entirely–it’s like the exotic cousin of plain crème brûlée. It’s different, but absolutely worth a try.
There are a lot of egg yolks involved here. I suggest fresh ones, and I also suggest that you have a plan in place for the whites. Maybe omelets? Maybe a meringue pie? Pavlovas? Just plan on something. I know it can be kind of stressful to think of something on the spot, but there’s nothing worse than realizing that the whites in the refrigerator have been there too long and having to throw them away. Bummer.
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup dark roast coffee beans crushed
8 cardamom pods crushed
2 whole vanilla beans halved lengthwise and seeds scraped
8 large egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
Heat oven to 325°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Combine cream, half-and-half, coffee beans, cardamom, and vanilla beans and seeds in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, about 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer until infused with coffee, cardamom, and vanilla flavor, about 30 minutes more.
Strain cream mixture to remove coffee beans, cardamom, and vanilla and discard; set cream mixture aside to cool slightly.
Combine yolks, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and salt in a large bowl; whisk until sugar is dissolved and mixture is pale and thick, and leaves a trail when the whisk is lifted, about 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, gradually pour in cream in a slow, steady stream.
Arrange 6 large or 4 medium ovenproof ramekins in roasting pan and evenly divide custard. Tap each ramekin a few times to break any bubbles that appear on the surface. Place roasting pan on oven rack and add enough warm water to come halfway up sides of ramekins or custard cups. Bake custards until just set in center, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer custards from water bath directly to refrigerator. Chill uncovered until cold, at least 2 hours.
When ready to finish, put 1 teaspoon of remaining sugar on each custard. Rotate ramekins to coat evenly. Using brûlée torch, melt sugar on each custard until deep amber. Or, use the broiler and rotate the ramekins around so that they don’t get too much direct heat in one place. Let the caramel cool and harden and then serve immediately.
Pro tip: These are better when made ahead (except the last step) and kept in the refrigerator for a few days.
This is John Mayer’s most recent album (released almost a year ago). It’s no secret that I’ve been a John Mayer fan for like, 12 years–ever since his Room for Squares days when I saw him in concert in Raleigh with my Dad and then wore the t-shirt (it was an adult large) at least once a week forever after that. Musically, we’ve hit our rough patches (Battle Studies, John? Or how about that song you did for the movie Bucket List? Yikes). There have been high points, too: Continuum, the John Mayer Trio. Recently, he’s sort of dropped off the face of the earth. Turns out, he’s had surgery on his vocal chords and moved to Montana to (somewhat) reconsider his whiskey-swilling, womanizing ways. In the process, he wrote this album and started wearing hats and having long hair. As for the album, it’s really pretty good, and it’s a little different. There are some low points, for sure–”Shadow Days” is nothing to write home about–but all in all, it’s a nice return to a John Mayer that I can believe in. It’s folksy, bluesy, a little jazzy, and has more than a few guitar solos to remind me why the quirky, often inappropriate John Mayer will always have a place in my heart.