What's in a name? More than any of us would like to believe. Sometimes you need an exotic sounding French name to create the necessary allure for a dish, and my case in point is creme brulee. Can you imagine this dessert (or any dessert) taking the world by storm if it was called "burnt cream"? In fact can you imagine doing anything with burnt cream apart from throwing it out and starting again? Happily this magnificent pairing of cool, unctuous cream with a crackly toffee top, carried its French moniker to world domination.
And what could be even better than creme brulee in a pot? Why creme brulee tarts of course, that add lovely buttery pastry to the soft, rich cream and the toffee topping. Three textures that contrast beautifully make this a fantastic dessert. The recipe comes from the lovely Cuisine magazine from NZ, in a feature by Natalie Schamroth of The Engine Room (July 2008). While this dessert is involved in its multiple steps, none of it is tricky, and it certainly has the WOW factor covered if you are looking for something special for guests. (And incidentally, with Mother's Day fast approaching, doesn't every mother need a gas torch of her own?)
I am sending these tarts over to Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness whose party this month is themed Devil's Food - Give in to Your Most Tempting Treats. Check out all the other wickedness here.
Creme Brulee Tarts
180g cold unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the tins
250g flour, plus extra for rolling the pastry
Pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
2 tbls cold water
baking beans for blind baking the pastry
1 egg white lightly beaten
Grate or finely dice the butter. Mix together the flour, sugar and salt, then rub in the butter (or pulse in a food processor until it all looks like find bread crumbs). Add the egg yolk and water and mix quickly until a dough starts to form. Tip it out onto a floured board, and bring together into a ball but do not work it or knead it. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 150C. Grease eight loose bottomed tart tins. Roll out the dough to 1/2 cm thick, then, using a cutter slightly larger than your tart tins, cut circles of dough. Press the circles of dough into your tins and refrigerate them for at least a further 30 mins. Prick the pastry with a fork, line with circles of baking paper and then cover the bases of each tart with baking weights. Blind bake for 15 mins. Remove the beans and the paper, then bake for another 2-5 mins until the pastry is completely cooked. Remove from the oven and immediately brush each tart lightly with egg white to seal it (the heat from the tarts should cook the egg white). Allow the tart shells to cool completely.
1 1/2 cups pouring cream
1 split vanilla bean
2 egg yolks
2 tbl sugar
Preheat the oven to 120C. Place the cream and vanilla in a saucepan and heat gently to boiling point. Remove from the heat. Whisk egg yolks and sugar together. Slowly whisk in the hot cream. strain the mixture then pour into the tart shells. Bake for 10-15 mins until the custard has just set (it should still be a little nervous in the centre.) Cool the tarts completely on a cake rack.
3/4 cup caster sugar
Sprinkle each tart evenly with 2 tbls of sugar. Use a gas torch to melt and burn the sugar, or place under a very hot grill. Cool the tarts, then remove from their shells and serve.