my new favorite toy

I would like to begin by saying, I am largely indifferent to creme brulee. The last two times I can remember having it were: at Devotay last winter, when Billy said he’d share it with me and then did not (I had to eat the whole thing! My life is hard.); and at this restaurant in Budapest, which featured pistachio and raspberry creme brulees that even I could not refuse. Especially I could not refuse. But the point is, I’ve ordered it two times in as many years, so when I found myself at Bed, Bath and Beyond last week, I had absolutely no need to buy this creme brulee KIT, with four too-small ramekins BUT A TORCH.

And a recipe twinging in the back of my mind. A recipe for, if you can even stand it, Cappuccino Creme Brulee that so captivated my creme-brulee-indifferent mind that I copied it onto a sheet of notebook paper. In the waiting area of a car repair shop. (White Dog Auto Repair, in Iowa City, has a cook book from White Dog Cafe, in Philadelphia. Just because of the identical name? I think so.)

I should add immediately that you don’t, strictly speaking, require a butane torch to make creme brulee. You can stick the sugar-sprinkled confections under the broiler for a few minutes to get a similar caramelized effect. I’ve done it before. But. I mean . . . it’s clearly not as fun, amiright? So I bought the whole kit (and caboodle). I made the cappuccino creme brulee. I used the torch!!! And I died happy.

Cappuccino Creme Brulee
(From White Dog Cafe)

Serves 8


  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/4 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
  • 9 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons espresso
  • cinnamon whipped cream (garnish, optional)

Combine heavy cream, half and half, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla bean in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let steep for thirty minutes.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Whisk together egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar.

Bring cream mixture to boil on low heat. Remove from heat. Pour one quarter of the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add this to the rest of the hot cream and whisk for one minute. Add espresso.

Strain through a fine sieve.

Divide among eight shallow, wide mouth, oven-proof ramekins. Set in a baking dish. Add hot water to the dish so that it reaches 3/4 of the way up the ramekins.

Bake one hour, until set.

Remove ramekins to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate at least four hours.

When ready to serve, sprinkle one tablespoon of the remaining sugar on each custard. Shake to coat evenly. Caramelize the sugar with a torch. Alternately, place ramekins in a baking dish, surround with ice water, and set under the broiler until the sugar caramelizes. Don’t let the sugar burn.

Serve immediately, with cinnamon whipped cream if desired.


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