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Creme Brulee- need flavor options. Never made before, need suggestions!

SO I have to bring dessert for a Valentine dinner party of 8, 2 of the people don't like chocolate so there goes my tried and true flour less chocolate cake with raspberry sauce, I think I've decided on creme brulee. What are my options for adding flavors? I probably don't want anything to gourmet (like saffron, chili, quince flavored)? but something to give it a MMMMmmm factor. Also, I have never made this before, can you make one large dish instead of little ramekins?
Thanks for your suggestions

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  1. Sadly, the best part of Creme Brulee is that exciting crack as you tap open your own serving. Having a group dish gives only the host/hostess that trill as they start to serve it.

    To me, the only and best flavor is a great vanilla bean.

    1. As it bakes best in a water bath, you are better off using ramekins. Much easier to fit into a larger pan. :)

      1. Have you made baked custard before?

        1. You could make crème brûlée in a large dish, but as others have noted, you then deprive your diners of the treat of cracking into the caramel. You could, however, mitigate this loss by making a large dish of crème caramel instead, which has a soft caramel and a firmer texture that is well suited to serving multiple guests.

          In either case, I think the rich custard benefits from a sharp contrasting note such as lemon zest or ginger. Cinnamon and orange zest are also common additions to custard.

          1. If you do decide to make creme brulee, one flavor that has always gone over well when I've done it is cranberry. You use whole cranberries (spiced as you wish) with some sugar cooked down so they pop and it is quite thick. And then put that (once it cools) into the bottom of the ramekin. Pour the custard over top and proceed as you would. You could probably also try it using the whole-berry canned type cranberry sauce too - just add spices and cook it down so it's thicker.

            It might be nice for valentine's day given the rich red color of it and the contrast with the vanilla bean custard. It is also a nice tart contrast to the richness of the vanilla custard.

            Good luck whatever you decide to do.

            1. Real vanilla (with the little beans suspended in the custard)

              I've had strawberry, raspberry, apricot, and pistachio brulees...and while they were very good, they don't hold a candle to good vanilla.

              1. I've found personally, especially when making a dish for the first time, to make the tried and true. A basic creme brulee -- with high quality cream and eggs, and real vanilla bean is simply amazing.

                If your party goers demand something else, or you're hesitant about making the custard, a flavor and insurance policy is a white chocolate/berry creme brulee. Find a high quality preserve and put two teaspoons or so in the bottom of each ramekin (i've done with with cherry, raspberry and blueberry -- raspberry was my favorite) and then melt a few ounces of white chocolate in the custard base. Viola -- creamy delicious creme brulee with a little surprise at the bottom!

                1. Apart from the vanilla suggestion, tonka beans. Star anise, coffee, cardamon, or substitute a little foie gras fat for the cream to add a savory edge.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: wattacetti

                    If you've never made it before, how 'bout a mix? Dr. Oetker's brand (supermarkets carry it) works in a pinch at our house. The box even comes with the sugar packet for the top. For a 'no ramekin' household, why don't you try Dr. Oetker's flan. That we make in a pyrex dish. As far as flavorings, leave it alone.

                    1. re: chefdaddyo

                      It`s worktime who has to make it not me.

                  2. lemon zest, rosemary, honey ???
                    coffee, cinnamon ???

                    1. Creme Brulee isn't that hard. I would use individual ramekins. I would stick with the classic vanilla flavor. I highly recommend using vanilla bean on this one.

                      You don't have much time but because it is for a group, not just your family, you need to make a dry run. Try to have a light touch with the torch. If the sugar burns, it tastes more like barbecue than a dessert.

                      If you are concerned about the time you have left to do this, you could try lemon and raspberry curd tarts. You could possibly even make that as 1 dish. http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/42...
                      They are easy, pretty and make an impression. If you really want to cheat on them, you could put them in the individual puff pastry cups from Pepperidge Farms.

                      1. My all time favourite will always be vanilla bean but this Blueberry Rum recipe is also divine:
                        http://inncuisine.com/decadent-desser.... Lemon Ginger is also very yummy.

                        1. There is a Japanese restaurant called Sakagura in NYC and they have this amazing black sesame creme brulee...it's really too die for. The best cream brulee i've ever had. In fact, my friends and I just go to that restaurant to eat their cream brulee.
                          It's actually not too rich, so I wonder if they use cream and milk combo.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Monica

                            You could put a burnt sugar crust on top of many different desserts.

                            Crema catalana is a Spanish (ok, Catalonian) version, some even claim is the original

                          2. Go with vanilla. And not some lame soft-serve vanilla flavor. Use the bean -- the good stuff is arguably the most complex and wonderful flavor known to man.

                            My advice would be to use the water bath method. Do not use any egg whites, only yolks. Temper the eggs way more slowly than you think you need to. Strain the mixture before you bake it. Don't put the sugar on too thick or it will stay grainy on the bottom while the top burns.

                            It's really not hard and tastes amazing.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: slopfrog

                              OK I think the consensus is stick with vanilla, the authentic version. I will use organic cream, farm fresh eggs and vanilla bean ( if I can find and afford) in ramekins. I think this will better guarantee that it turns out well.
                              I plan to make ahead on Friday and then torch right before serving on Sat. night. The host, who is great but a know it all in a gentle way, has a torch so I will let him assist me in torching so if they burn I can blame him ; ) . Thanks for all the suggestions!

                                1. re: worktime

                                  sounds like you've made a great choice! One small variation is to candy some orange peel and chop it in the cuisinart to a fine orange "sugar". Use that as the sugar on top ...

                                  1. re: CocoTO

                                    For a first time, stick to a classic recipe. If it turns out well, THEN play with it as you will.

                                2. re: slopfrog

                                  +1 on slopfrog, quine, and hank re: just plain vanilla bean.

                                  However, I am intrigued by LNG212's suggestion of lining the bottom of ramekins with sweetened cranberries. Cranberries make so many things surprisingly good.

                                  I also think making a practice batch ASAP is essential. Two of the only cooking disasters I actually remember had to do with something failing to custard-ize, and one was a *supreme* waste of time and ingredients.

                                3. what about passion fruit? it works great in creme brulee

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: L987

                                    I'll second the passion fruit. I put a layer along the bottom, complete with the seeds. The crunchy seeds echo the crunch of the carmelized sugar breaking along the top.

                                  2. I went to a dinner party last year where the hostess served creme brulee in individual ramekins, but without the hard crust top. She passed around a bowl of sugar and a small torch, and let us do it ourselves, instructing us that the more sugar we poured on, the thicker the crunchy crust would be. It was great fun. This would, of course, only work at a rather informal gathering, and it's something that would need to be cleared with the host first, but I thought it was an idea worth tossing out there.

                                    1 Reply