Sunday, March 13, 2011

Latte Crème Caramel

I know that St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner and I should probably be posting about that, but the thought of making some green-frosted cupcakes or Irish soda bread or shamrock cookies just didn’t inspire me, despite the fact that I’m a ‘Boyle’. 

Yes, I’m told there’s even a town in Ireland called Boyle, but even that didn’t sway me to participate in the “kiss me I’m Irish” fun surrounding the day. I have been known to imbibe green beer when offered on March 17, but don’t ask me to be the one to add 

the food coloring; it’s against my principles. So I opted to hold off on the St. Patrick’s Day celebration until next week, and decided to make one of my favorite comfort desserts, crème caramel, instead. This one is flavored with coffee — instead of using instant espresso 

powder to flavor it though, I infuse the milk and cream base with whole coffee beans, which keeps its ivory color intact and gives it a lovely, subtle coffee flavor that pairs wonderfully with the sweet caramel. I guess, if you wanted, you could add some Bailey’s Irish Cream to the custard and serve it after your corned beef and cabbage dinner on the 17th. Just don’t color it green.

Latte Crème Caramel

Serves eight

1 cup (200 gr) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 gr )water
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Latte Custard:
2 cups (484 gr) whole milk
1 cup (232 gr) heavy cream
2/3 cup (132 gr) granulated sugar
½ cup coffee beans (not ground)
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate-covered espresso beans for garnish

Make the caramel:
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Arrange eight 6-oz ramekins in a roasting or baking pan.
Fill a cup with water and place a pastry brush in it (this will be used for washing down the sides of the pan to prevent crystallization).
2. In a clean, heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan, stir together the sugar, water and lemon juice. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, occasionally washing down the sides of the pan to wash away sugar crystals, until the mixture starts to color around the edges. Gently swirl the pan to ensure that the sugar caramelizes evenly. Continue to cook until the sugar turns deep amber. Immediately pour the hot caramel into the bottom of the ramekins, dividing it evenly among them. Very carefully tilt each ramekin to coat the bottom and halfway up the sides of each with the caramel (it doesn’t matter if the coating is not perfectly even). Set aside to let the caramel harden.

Make the custard:
3. Combine the milk, cream, sugar, coffee beans and salt in 3-qt heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally; remove from heat. Whisk eggs, yolks, and vanilla together in a medium bowl, then slowly add the hot cream mixture, whisking constantly. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a pitcher or 1 qt. Pyrex measuring cup. Divide the custard among the ramekins—it should just about fill each one. Using a kettle, pour very hot water into the roasting pan until it comes one-third to halfway up the sides of the ramekins (be careful not to splash water into the custards). Bake the custards in the water bath for 35-40 minutes, or until the edges of the custards are firm and the centers jiggle when gently shaken (custards will continue to cook as they cool). Carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath, transfer to a wire rack, and cool completely. Cover each ramekin with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours (or up to 2 days).

Unmold and serve:
4. Run a small knife around the edge of each ramekin to loosen the custards. Place a plate over each ramekin and quickly invert. You may need to shake the ramekin a few times to release the custard. Garnish each custard with a chocolate-covered espresso bean.