Nhã-Hân and Ân-Hy were half way through their crème brûlée when I finally had a few minutes to sit down and watch them enjoy their dessert. As Nhã-Hân dugged her spoon into the crisp caramel, it cracked open and revealed a beautiful pastel green, creamy, decadent custard. She exclaimed, "Why is this so good?". It triggered my curiosity about the history behind this wonderful crème brûlée. Though the exact origin is uncertain. France, England, and Spain all claim to be the country where crème brûlée originated.
Crème brûlée might appear complicated to make but it's actually very simple and incredibly delicious with just a few ingredients. The top layer of crème brûlée is lightly burnt and crispy with toffee flavor. The word “brulee” means “burnt”. That’s where the blow torch comes in. For the finishing touch, the top of the custard is sprinkled with sugar and subjected to very high heat. The sugar caramelizes to a crispy, brown crust. I sometime use just vanilla pure extract or Grand Manier orange liqueur in crème brûlée but if you love tea like my little girl Ân-Hy, add matcha to crème brûlée to infuse an exotic flavor and subtle taste, along with a mega dose of antioxidants in every bite.
Matcha literally means Japanese green tea powder. Matcha is essentially the youngest, finest and most tender green tea leaves that have been steamed, dried, and stone-ground into a fine, delicate powder. Matcha, considered an anti-oxidant powerhouse, claims to have amazing health benefits such as burning fat, boosting your energy level naturally, cleaning your body of toxins and focusing your mind, helping your body fight infections and diseases.
There are different grades of matcha. Ceremonial grade is the highest grade which is used on special occasion and to be served straight. Premium grade is still very good and it is more of an everyday beverage. While Culinary/Ingredient grade is cheaper and is added as an ingredient to foods and beverages. This grade is mixed with older tea leaves which has a stronger flavor.
The taste of high grade Matcha is smooth and mellow, while lower quality matcha can leave a bitter taste. For this recipe, I used a ceremonial grade matcha that a friend of mine brought back from Japan. If you're in Sacramento, Oto's Marketplace has matcha - culinary quality for about $10 per ounce. Click on my Amazon affiliate link here to purchase.
RECIPE: Crème Brûlée
make 6-8 creme servings
5 extra-large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon matcha, click here to purchase
fruits, for decoration, optional
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Boil a pot of water.
Cooking Heavy Whipping Cream
Place heavy cream and matcha into a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir often until it's just about to boil, hot to touch but not boiled. Remove from heat and let it cool down.
You can also cook the heavy cream without matcha. Matcha can be whisked together with the egg yolks in the next step.
Whisking Egg Yolks
Meanwhile, whisk together egg yolks, sugar and matcha, if used in this step, by hand or in a stand mixer until well blended.
Slowly add heavy cream a little at a time, while slowly whisking. Avoid pouring the heavy cream into the egg too fast as the heavy cream is still warm and it will cook the egg. Be careful not to over mix to avoid foams.
Add vanilla extract. Strain egg mixture through a strainer for a fine texture.
Baking Crème Brûlée
Place 6-8 ramekins, depends on your size of ramekins, into a baking pan and pour liquid into ramekins. Place the baking pan in the oven. Being careful not to splash the water into the ramekins, pour boiling water into the pan to come two-thirds up the height of the ramekins.
Bake in preheated oven for about 35 minutes, until the custards are set when gently shaken, but still jiggly in the center. Remove ramekins from baking pan and let it cool down before refrigerating and allow to set for at least 2 hours or until chilled.
Torching Crème Brûlée
|vanilla crème brûlée|
When you are ready to serve matcha crème brûlée, sprinkle sugar on the top of each ramekin. Gently swirl the ramekin to create smooth layer of sugar then pour out the excess sugar. Hold the chef's torch about two inches away from ramekin and caramelize the sugar by moving the flame continuously over the sugar in a circular motion, until the sugar is melted and turns golden brown.
It's hard to resist an enticing matcha crème brûlée with toppings of sweet and tart fruits such as strawberries, blue berries, raspberries, or bananas. The palate is quite rich yet the balance of acidity and sweetness make it ideal.
As I was strolling through my backyard to look for some beautiful micro edible flowers to garnish the crème brûlée, a blossoming apricot tree and fresh mint plants caught my eyes, heralding the arrival of spring.
Eat well. Stay healthy.