Chocolate Crème Brûlée

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Last year as my Valentine’s gift to you I shared one of my favorite recipes, Crème Brûlée.  It’s still top of my list 🙂

However, we gotta mix it up a bit!  This year for Valentine’s Day, let’s go chocolate.  We use bittersweet chocolate for this recipe, specifically I grabbed a bag of the Ghiradelli semisweet chips, and that gives the dessert a rich, deep chocolate taste.  I’d say that’s a Valentine treat for any sweetheart!

Are you making a treat for your love this year? What’s on the menu?


Chocolate Crème Brûlée

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ¼ cup, plus 3 T sugar, plus additional for topping
  • ½ cup bittersweet chocolate
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • up to 1 T vanilla

Preheat the oven to 250.

Heat the cream and 1/4 cup sugar over medium heat, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved.  Keep the mixture on the heat, stirring occasionally, until the cream just starts to simmer – you’ll notice this most by small bubbles rising at the sides of the pot.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the chocolate until the mixture is nice and smooth.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 3 T sugar until well blended and a pale shade of yellow. Whisk in the vanilla – I like a good hearty tablespoon, but you may want to start with a 1 1/2 teaspoons if you aren’t as big of a fan.

Slowly whisk the cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so you don’t cook the egg yolks.  I mean, they’d be chocolate-flavored egg yolks… but still.  Go slow.  Once you have it all whisked together, pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve or some cheesecloth to catch any bits you don’t want in your finished product.

Set four ramekins or small baking dishes in a large roasting pan.  Pour the chocolate custard evenly into the ramekins, then pour hot water into the roasting pan around the ramekins, letting the water level come up to about halfway on the dishes.  Place the roasting dish in the oven on a middle rack.  Bake the custards until just set, about 60-70 minutes.

Let the custards cool completely at room temperature.  Then wrap them up in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least one hour.

Sprinkle about a tablespoon of granulated sugar across the top of each custard and rock it back and forth a bit so that the top is evenly coated with a layer of sugar.  Using either a kitchen torch or the oven broiler, melt and brown the layer of sugar.  A kitchen torch will give you more control and a more even brown across the top.  If you are using your broiler, keep a very close eye on the custards, you may want to move them a bit halfway through and the process will happen fairly quick.

Let the desserts cool just until the sugar hardens and serve.  For me, two of the best things about Crème Brûlée is not only the texture difference between the creamy custard and the hard sugar shell but the contrasting temperature between cold and warm as well.  I have to admit… Crème Brûlée will always be one of my favorites – in any flavor!

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Full Recipe

Chocolate Crème Brûlée

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ¼ cup, plus 3 T sugar, plus additional for topping
  • ½ cup bittersweet chocolate
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • up to 1 T vanilla

Preheat oven to 250.

Heat cream and ¼ cup sugar over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.

Keep over the heat, stirring occasionally, until cream just starts to simmer.

Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until smooth.

In another bowl, whisk together egg yolks and 3 T sugar until blended and pale yellow.

Whisk in vanilla.

Slowly whisk cream mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly so as to not cook eggs.

Pour through fine mesh sieve.

Set four ramekins in a large roasting pan.

Pour custard evenly into ramekins.

Pour hot tap water into roasting pan, about halfway up sides of ramekins.

Place roasting dish in the oven on middle rack.

Bake until just set, 60-70 minutes.

Let custards cool completely at room temp.

Refrigerate at least one hour.

Sprinkle about 1 T granulated sugar across the top of each custard so it is well covered.

Use a kitchen torch or broil the sugar until melted.  

Let cool until sugar hardens and serve.

Begonia’s Banana Pudding

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Begonia was a friend of my Grandma McGee.  I can imagine the two of them sitting together chatting about life, griping about life’s little irritations, celebrating the successes, sharing recipes and smiling.  Lots of smiles.  Begonia shared this recipe with my Grandma and it’s become a family favorite over the years.  It always makes me think of my Grandma and makes me smile like I know they would be.

There’s a surprise ingredient in this pudding, one I really wasn’t a fan of growing up.  I mean, who likes to put sour cream on things?! (I’ve thankfully overcome this dislike in my more recent years)  If you aren’t a fan of sour cream, you have to give this a try.  It gives the pudding a richness without adding more sweet to the mix.

Do you have any favorite namesake recipes?  What are they?


Begonia’s Banana Pudding

  • 5 bananas, sliced
  • 3 small, or 2 large, instant banana pudding mix
  • 3 cups milk
  • 12 oz cool whip
  • 12 oz sour cream
  • 1 box Nilla wafers, or similar product

This couldn’t be easier, y’all.  Mix and stack your way to sweetness!

To start, line a bowl or individual parfait cups with wafers.  I like to break a few up so that they make a pretty complete bottom layer but you do you with the amount of wafers you use.  If you ask Will, he’s going to say “load it up with wafers!” If you are going for presentation power, use a glass dish and be sure to get the wafers all the way to the edge so that you can see them against the glass.

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Whisk together the pudding mixes and milk. Stir in the cool whip and sour cream until everything is mixed well and smooth.  Trust on the sour cream, y’all.  It works.

Carefully layer bananas and pudding on top of your base wafer layer.  If you want the pretty presentation, just be sure to carefully line some banana slices right at the edge of the dish and then carefully smooth the pudding over the top and to the edges.  It will set and firm up a bit if you let the completed dish sit in the fridge for a while.   Keep alternating layers of wafers, bananas and pudding until you reach the top of your dish or run out of material!

Top with crushed wafers (extra cool whip is nice too).  You are good to go from here, or set the dish(es) in the fridge for a bit and the pudding will firm up a little more.

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If you are smiling right now, Begonia would be proud 🙂


Full Recipe

Begonia’s Banana Pudding

  • 5 bananas, sliced
  • 3 small, or 2 large, instant banana pudding mix
  • 3 cups milk
  • 12 oz cool whip
  • 12 oz sour cream
  • 1 box Nilla wafers, or similar product

Line a bowl (or individual parfait cups) with wafers.

Mix pudding and milk.

Add cool whip and sour cream, mix well.

In the bowl, or parfait dishes, alternate layers of pudding, bananas and wafers.

Top with crushed wafers.

Croissant Bake

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One of Will’s favorite desserts is bread pudding.  I never had much of it growing up so it never made a big impact with me.  I also have a huge dislike of soggy bread so it wasn’t something I would reach for if given the choice.

Silly me, I should have realized that bread pudding is so much more than soggy bread!  Now, I am a huge fan of it and love to play around with the makeup of the recipe – a base of bread that absorbs a sweetened milk mixture and maybe the addition of fruit, nuts or chocolate.  This recipe is one example of a play on bread pudding.  The light and airy croissants easily and quickly take on the cream cheese and milk mixture but are hearty enough to support the fruit. It’s a delicious take on one of my now favorite desserts.


Croissant Bake

  • 3 large croissants, or 6-8 small, cut up (about 5 to 5 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries, blackberries
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup milk

Let’s start with those croissants.  Normally, when making something like a bread pudding I would say skip the knife and just tear the bread up into chunks.  For croissants though, my preference is to use a serrated knife to cut them into chunks.  Don’t stress about keeping the pieces the same size by any means, but using a serrated knife keeps the delicate bread nice and airy rather than crushing it.  This allows the croissant pieces to take in the liquid nicely but stay on the lighter side rather than being too dense.  By all means though, if that knife is just too far away… start shredding!

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Side note:  sometimes I feel like someone is watching me in the kitchen just hoping that something hits the floor…

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Grease a 9-inch square pan* and fill the pan with the croissant pieces. Spread the fruit along the top of the croissant pieces.  You can easily use fresh or frozen fruit here, whatever is easiest to work with at the time.  I’ve gone both routes and the end result is always delicious!  You can also switch out the flavors to whatever you prefer – add in other fruits such a banana or stick with one classic, add pecans or walnuts for a little texture, or toss in some chocolate chips for added decadence.

*As a variation, you can also bake these in individual ramekins for a different presentation.  See the end of the full recipe below for those baking instructions.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, vanilla and nutmeg until smooth.  I’m a slightly impatient baker so I tend to leave a few little lumps in the mix… we’ll just call those “lumps of love” 🙂

Slowly add the milk, mixing as you go.  Once that is combined, pour the milk mixture evenly over the fruit.

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Here’s the hardest part – cover and let it sit for at least 20 minutes.  While you are letting it sit, preheat the oven to 350. You can also make this the night before, cover it up, then let it sit in the fridge overnight.

Waiting is hard for all of us.

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When ready, bake the dish, covered, for 20-25 minutes.  Then take the cover off and bake another 20-25 minutes, or until the top is a nice golden brown and the center is set – no jiggles.

Serve the Croissant Bake warm with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and/or a little whipped cream.  (I’ve also let the dish cool and frozen individual portions of the Croissant Bake.  It reheats quickly and nicely for a breakfast on-the-go!)

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Full Recipe

Croissant Bake

  • 3 large croissants, or 6-8 small, cut up (about 5 to 5 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries, blackberries
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9-inch square pan.

Place croissant pieces in the pan.

Sprinkle with fruit.

Beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs, vanilla and nutmeg in a bowl with electric mixer until smooth.

Gradually add the milk, blending well.

Pour evenly over croissant pieces.

Cover and let stand 20 minutes or soak overnight.

Bake, covered, at 350°F for 20-25 minutes.

Uncover and bake another 20-25 minutes, until the center is set and the top is browned.

Serve warm sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Variation:

Place croissant pieces evenly in 10 (1/2-cup) ramekins.

Sprinkle with fruit and pour cream cheese mixture evenly over croissant pieces.

Let stand 20 minutes.

Bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes or until set in center and golden brown.