Crème brûlée is one of my all-time favourite desserts. Silky-smooth and creamy, it lends itself to countless interpretations. Pumpkin seems to be a very popular autumn flavour, and while I do love a good pumpkin crème brûlée, I started thinking about another delightful seasonal flavour – apples. The combination of apples, cinnamon and nutmeg is a natural for pies and, as it turns out, a great trio for crème brûlée as well! You can buy apple butter at farmers’ markets and specialty food shops, or, with a little patience, make your own. It gives this dish a more concentrated flavour than you would get by using applesauce for the fruit component. If you love crème brûlée like I do, it’s worth investing in a handy little kitchen torch; they’re not expensive and just might incent you to make a lot more of these yummy treats.
- ¼ cup apple butter
- ½ teaspoon brandy or vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 1/4 cups heavy or whipping cream
- 4 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons white sugar
- 2 teaspoons turbinado or cane sugar
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Place four 4 ounce ramekins in a baking dish; set aside.
- In a small bowl, melt apple butter over medium heat in the microwave until it softens enough to stir smoothly and become like very thick applesauce (about one minute). Add brandy (or vanilla), cinnamon and nutmeg; stir well. Set aside.
- Separate eggs and put yolks and white sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk to blend well.
- In a glass bowl or measuring cup, heat the heavy cream in the microwave until just steaming but not boiling (about one minute on high).
- Slowly whisk cream into egg yolks and sugar. Scrape apple butter mixture into the cream and egg mixture and whisk well to blend thoroughly.
- Transfer the mixture to a 2 cup measuring cup and, pouring carefully, divide the mixture among the four ramekins.
- Pour enough hot water into the baking pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
- Bake in centre of preheated oven until edges are set but centre is still a bit wobbly when you jiggle the pan (about 25 minutes).
- Remove ramekins from water and let cool on wire racks.
- Cover and refrigerate for 2 – 48 hours.
- An hour or two before serving, sprinkle ½ teaspoon of turbinado or cane sugar evenly over the top of each ramekin.
- Use a kitchen torch to heat the sugar until it bubbles and turns dark amber (being careful not to set the sugar on fire – if you do overdo the heating process, let the dish cool and then remove the sugar layer with the tip of a sharp knife and start over again with fresh sugar).
- Alternatively, you can broil the sugar-topped ramekins about 6 inches (15 cm) away from the heat but be sure to keep a close eye on them and adjust their position as needed for uniform sugar melting.
- Let cool in fridge, uncovered, for 30 – 120 minutes before serving.