Thanks to Robby for rounding off the Halloween series with the Monster Meatloaf! Isn’t he adorable? As soon as the words “Halloween party” fell out of my mouth, he claimed the last slot. I didn’t even know what he was going to do until he proudly served me his ghastly-yet-delicious meatloaves (meatloafs?) for dinner.
And yes, we bought a house! This post is a little late (oops) because I spent last night painting the living room instead of editing photos. I hope to show you some photos of my shiny new-to-me, lots-of-counter-space kitchen in a few weeks!
In the meantime, I’m celebrate an anniversary with a chocolate-lover’s dream, Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee. It’s an interesting anniversary, one that’s had me struggling with what to say about it, but when in doubt, I find that plain truth works pretty well.
So: October 30 was this weekend. Nineteen October 30ths ago, I was nine years old. I was also freshly diagnosed with leukemia.
I have a lot of feelings about the two and a half years of chemotherapy that followed, but I never know how to talk about it. Adults used to ask me how I thought having cancer had changed me. I still don’t know how to answer that question because, although I’m sure I would have been a different person, there’s no way to know what she would have been like.
I do know that my family reached up to God and down into themselves and rose to the occasion in every way possible. I spent something like 60 days in the hospital, a few days for each treatment, and my parents took turns staying there with me. One slept in the plastic recliner in my teeny room, and the other of them would go home to take care of my little brother. Said brother learned to be careful of my new fragility, and was always kind to me even when he didn’t understand what was happening. Our church and friends drew in around us to bring meals, stuffed animals, prayer and emotional support.
I know that out of grief and fear, my mom pulled up strength to take on things like running the pediatric cancer support group at the hospital. I know that my dad donated pints and pints of blood in my honor.
What I do know is this. I’ve never wanted to be defined by cancer, and by God’s grace and modern medicine, I don’t have to be. But I’m alive when there was a 20-plus percent chance that I wouldn’t be, and so I’m starting to think that even if I don’t want to celebrate, October 30 is a good day to be thankful.
The Perfect Creme Brulee
I came around to creme brulee a few years ago when I realized that it’s really just a thin layer of sugar over a smooth, simple custard. I got REALLY excited when I found out that you can improve it with chocolate.
On one hand, this recipe is simple: a 5-ingredient chocolate pudding, which is baked, chilled, and topped with sugar. On the other hand, it does require a certain amount of meticulousness. If that doesn’t sound like you, it’s okay–as long as you can get through the custard-making, the rest is relatively simple.
I made this twice to work out the proportions and cooking kinks. So that yours is perfect the first time, here are some tips:
- Measure your ramekins! I have two sets. One set holds 8 ounces each; the other, only 3 ounces. This recipe makes about 32 ounces of liquid, so you could make tiny ramekins work, but only if you’re willing to fill a whole lot of them.
- Melt the chocolate GENTLY. The internet revealed that the easiest way to do this is in the microwave, in 30-second intervals, at (this is key) 50% power or less. Stir between each interval until the chocolate is not quite all melted, then remove from microwave and keep stirring. You can coax chocolate into melting a bit more, but if it burns you’ll have to start over.
- Stir, don’t whisk. I wanted a custard that was more on the dense, silky side rather than fluffy, so I opted to whisk only the eggs. After that, I stirred with a spoon so as not to add air.
I also learned quite a bit about the mechanics of the recipe (for even more, check out this fun, multi-brulee experiment). If you want to play with the recipe, here are a few notes:
- Not into chocolate? Just leave it out (I won’t judge. Much).
- Want to change the number of servings? For every 100 milliliters of cream used, use 1 egg yolk. Round down, so if you have a pint of cream at 473 mL, use 4 egg yolks.
- If you prefer yours fluffy to silk, do all the mixing with a whisk.
- For extra meticulousness points, pour custard mix into ramekins through a fine strainer to remove any lumps.
Also, the chilled custard by itself is fabulous. If you are afraid of fire or don’t care for caramel, just eat the creme straight from the fridge. Creme or brulee, celebrating or not. Zero regrets either way.
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
6 ounces dark chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)
1/2 cup vanilla sugar (1/2 cup sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla)
Baking or roasting pan
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt chocolate, either in a double-boiler or the microwave. Heat cream with vanilla over medium heat until hot but not boiling.
While the cream heats, beat together egg yolks and sugar, just until color starts to lighten. Temper the eggs by stirring in a splash of hot cream. Stir continually while adding the rest of the cream, and then the chocolate. Mix well.
Divide into 6 ramekins. Place ramekins into a baking or roasting pan, and carefully pour hot water into the pan about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until they are partially set but still a little jiggly on top, like Jello-O. Chill ramekins for at least 2 hours.
A few minutes before serving, sprinkle vanilla sugar evenly over the tops. Use the torch to melt and gently caramelize the sugar into the perfect crispy lid. Allow sugar to harden before serving.
If you don't have a brulee torch, you can melt the sugar by putting the ramekins under the broiler for 1-2 minutes. Return bruleed cremes back to the fridge to cool back down before serving.