Mocha Amaretto CREME BRULEE Almond Crunch

Shamefully starting the New Year happily with a custard and crunch dessert.
A terrific beginning was derived from a declared negligence in my kitchen.

Here's my New Year solution to crème brûlée topping.
Blowtorch be gone, all I need is a little burnt brittle.  

Voila, a satisfying, crunchy crust to top a sublime crème custard.
The fact that it’s Gluten-free is an added bonus ;o)

My first encounter with crème brûlée was nowhere near Paris.  However, my fine hometown of Montreal was rich in culinary talent and great French bistros were plenty.  
I'll never forget my internal reaction to a client contemplating ordering dessert after what I thought at the time was a slim meal at best.  
The restaurant was quite fancy and the dishes were beautifully presented.  All I could think of was how hungry I still felt after appreciating every morsel from some fairly small portions.  In those days, I was way too timid to ever make any remarks referring to my discontentment...especially not with a client.  
Towards the end of the meal, I had thought to myself...there's got to be a way to sway him in having dessert ;o)   Then, to my pleasant surprise, he asked me if I had ever tried their delectable crème brûlée.  Not only did I not ever have their specialty...I actually wasn't sure what it was!?!  
With a reflective smile, I answered, "with such praise, how could I not try it."  He, as you can imagine was very pleased with himself.  Was I somewhat flattering his ego or was it time to get a look and taste at this crème brulée?
Not only did I manage to seal the deal with my client, I fell in custard - crunch love.  I was hooked!

Since then, whenever I find myself in a French bistro...my first question to the waiter is "how incredible is your crème brûlée?"   I then decide by the level of responsive excitement as to what type of dessert I’ll experience and what size of main meal I’ll have ;o)


Of course, throughout the years...
I’ve made many versions with custards mostly turning out delicious.   
Although, I did unfortunately have a few custards go awry.  

When the custards went under the broiler a little too long...
the cream ended up coagulating into an incredible disappointment. 

However, in truth, I never quite got the most important part right...
the cracking - crunchy topping was usually not to my satisfaction.

Other than having a plumber's blowtorch to REALLY get the job done...
I had almost given up on making a perfect bistro style crème brûlée.  

It wasn’t until one day, I had slightly burnt a candy brittle within seconds.  At first I thought it was heading for the garbage pail. I did however pour it onto the parchment liner and went on to do other things.  At my return, I figured that my curious and ‘waste-not’ nature should at least try and take a small bite.  When I did finally taste it, the memory of crème brulée topping came to mind.  The, deep and darkened rich colour had turned out a slightly burnt caramel taste.  It somewhat seemed to mimic a torched sugar taste.  

Could this mishap be the answer to my aggravation with the crème brulée?   

Well, there you have it.  
Once more, my temporary negligence in the kitchen brought me bliss and another way to enjoy one of my favourite desserts.  
No more aggravations with the oven broiler and worrisome scenarios that went along with it.   No more risking that the custard coagulates.  I'm done beating myself up about the crunchy crust.  Now I‘ll have as much or little crunch as I please.  The nuts are an option of course ;o)

Mocha Amaretto crème brûlée Almond crunch

serves 4
Suggestion: bake the custard ramekins at the earliest 6 hours before serving or latest 3 days beforehand.

Click HERE for PRINTER version of this recipe

Almond crunch burnt Brittle: 
This recipe will yield enough for as many as 8 custards.  
Notes:   I increased the ratio of liquid to almonds in order to have more crunch.   This brittle can be made ahead of time.  Store into parchment paper and place into a tin box in a cool, dry place. 

(American / Metric measures)
. 1/2 cup (65g) roasted almonds*
. 1/2 cup (110g) granulated sugar
. 1/4 cup (50ml) water
* Almonds (with skin) should be roasted slightly beforehand.  Pre-heat oven at 350F/180C/Gas 4.  In a medium size baking pan, roast the almonds on the bottom rack of the oven for about 13-14 minutes.   Completely cool before using.  


1. Prepare a small cookie sheet with a parchment paper liner.  Spread out the roasted almonds and make sure to leave a fair amount of space around the perimeter.   Set aside.
2. In a deep medium saucepan, melt together the sugar and water on medium heat.  Stir only once.  Leave it alone afterwards.
3. As soon as this turns to a clear liquid and starts bubbling, keep an eye on it until it turns dark golden. At this point, the darker caramel is ready.   
4. Quickly pour it evenly throughout the surface of the nuts by starting at the center and spreading outwards and in a circular motion.
5. The caramelized almond candy will have hardened within 30 minutes.  At this point, the whole piece can be cracked liberally.  
. Store into wrapped parchment paper.  Place into a tin box and set aside in a cool, dry place until needed.  


Mocha Amaretto Custard:
serves 4

(American / Metric measures)
. 4 large egg yolks
. 1/2 cup (110g) granulated sugar
. 1 Tbsp. (15ml) instant coffee
. 1 tsp. (5ml) cocoa powder (Dutch-processed)
. 1 cup (250ml) milk (low fat+)
. 1 cup (250ml) whipping 35% cream
. 1 tsp. (5ml) pure Vanilla extract
. 2 Tbsps. (30ml) Amaretto liquor**
** Non-alcohol alternative:  replace Amaretto with 1 tsp. (5ml) of pure almond extract.

Another variation that would work splendidly with this ‘Burnt’ Brittle:
...with Maple syrup and Grand Marnier:
. 4 large egg yolks
. 1/4 cup (55g) granulated sugar
. 1 Tbsp. (15ml) Maple syrup
. 1 cup (250ml) milk (low fat+)
. 1 cup (250ml) whipping 35% cream
. 1 tsp. (5ml) pure vanilla extract
. 1 Tbsp. (15ml) Grand Marnier liquor***

*** Optional choice of complementary liquors: i.e.: Drambuie, Frangelico, Kahlua, dark Rum, Tia Maria, etc.
. The versatility doesn’t stop there of course.  Many spices and some liquor, soaked dried fruit can also be added.

. Pre-heat the oven to 300F/150C/Gas2
. Prepare a shallow, medium-sized pan (lined with optional parchment paper). 
Place 4 x [1/2 cup(125ml)] ramekins or small, shallow baking dishes.   Set aside.
. Position oven rack at the 2nd level from bottom of the oven.

...Making the CUSTARD cream:
1. In a small-medium saucepan, hand whisk the egg yolks, sugar, coffee and cocoa powder until a smooth paste has formed.
2. Add just a little quantity of milk and whisk to soften the thick paste.   Afterwards, continually whisk in the remaining milk and add cream until all is combined.   Note: this is one of the better ways to avoid getting curdles in the egg mix.   It will assure a smooth, lump-free custard every time.  It also avoids having to later strain it.
3. Over medium-high heat, start whisking the custard gently at first.  Once a very low simmering boil appears, a quicker whisking motion should take place.   As the mix starts rising slightly and lightly thickening, close the heat and remove the pot.   The cream is ready and the vanilla extract and Amaretto liquor can now be added. 
4. Pour and divide the cream immediately amongst the ramekins.  
5. Create a 'bain-marie' (water bath) by pouring some very hot (faucet) water surrounding the ramekins, only a quarter of the way.  Carefully place pan onto the bottom rack of the oven and continue filling up to 3/4 of the way on the ramekins.  
6. Close the oven door and let the custard continue lightly cooking for a period of 45 minutes.  Afterwards, remove pan out of the oven and let it rest for 30 more minutes.
7. Once the time is up, place them onto a wire rack to cool completely for about 2 hours or so.  Afterwards, cover the ramekins tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours or preferably chilled overnight.  Keeps well for 2-4 days.
...Assembly - adding the Almond BRITTLE to the CUSTARD:
8. Put a few pieces of ’burnt’ brittle in a plastic bag and keep a tiny pocket hole open.  Place a tea cloth over the bag and have fun pounding it with the a heavy saucepan or other preferred tool.  A food processor can also be turned to ‘pulse’ small pieces of crushed brittle.
9. Take the custards out 15 minutes ahead of time from the refrigerator.  With a paper towel, gently blot the accumulated condensation on the custard surfaces.  
10. Afterwards, generously spread the crushed almond brittle throughout.  This step could have also been prepared ahead of time.  Serve and enjoy.

Well, time has come once again to bid you an excellent week ahead.

I truly wish you a fantastic New Year filled with all you desire and...
that great opportunities come your way.

Here’s hoping that some of your possible kitchen mishaps bring...
you surprising desserts to you as well ;o)

Ciao for now and flavourful wishes,

Comments or suggestions ... write me :o)
Claudia at:  foodessa [at] gmail [dot] com

Go HERE for more SWEET creations.

Please take note on how I bake and cook...
Here’s a 101 of sorts to make sure that there are no disappointments when trying my creations.  
Also...just so you know...feel free to increase the salt and sweet factor since I'm not high on either of them ;o)
. Use DRY cup measurements for...you guessed it...all DRY ingredients.
Anything DRY gets measured by spooning the overfilled ingredient (never shake the cup) and then level off with a flat edged tool.  Exception...Brown sugar should be packed in and leveled.
. Use LIQUID cup measurements for...all LIQUIDS that cannot be leveled like for example butter, yogurt...etc.  Measure the liquids at eye level to avoid overdoing what the recipe truly needs.
OVENS are unfortunately not created equal.  Mine is so old that it has reached many degrees off it's norm.  It's really worth investing a few dollars to test yours with an appropriate oven thermometer.  You'd be surprised how many ovens I've heard about not being where they should have been.  Before you lose any more ingredients and much time preparing a new recipe...run to the store...you'll thank me later.