Creamy espresso custard baked with a thin layer of espresso ganache and brûléed to perfection makes for a delicious espresso crème brûlée.
When I first saw Nestlé Toll House’s espresso chocolate chips, I was intrigued. The idea of chocolate morsels tasting like coffee opened up ideas to many desserts. Why hadn’t this been a thing earlier? I had to try these espresso chocolate chips to see if they were really worth all the hype. And for someone that isn’t a fan of coffee-flavored desserts, I sincerely enjoy the taste of these morsels. Rather than make cookies with these chocolate chips, I wanted to make something a little more out of the box. And with the help of my husband, we came up with the idea of espresso crème brûlée.
The base layer of my s’more crème brûlée recipe, chocolate ganache, inspired me to transform these espresso chocolate chips into an espresso ganache which is simple to make and a delicious component to this espresso crème brûlée. And to top that, espresso powder adds just the perfect amount of coffee flavor to the creamy custard filling. This coffee-flavored dessert is simple to make and can easily be made in advance.
What you need to make espresso crème brûlée
6 (5 0z) ceramic ramekins or individual baking containers of choice
Large, deep baking pan
Double boiler (or heatproof bowl over a saucepan with an inch of water)
Wire cooling rack
Espresso chocolate chips. Nestlé Toll House chocolate chips that taste just like espresso. Used to make the espresso ganache.
Heavy cream. Heavy cream or heavy whipping cream are interchangeable. Used both for the ganache and the crème brûlée base.
Vanilla bean. Madagascar vanilla or Tahitian vanilla work equally well in this recipe. It is a matter of preference. Madagascar vanilla is rich and creamy whereas Tahitian has a floral flavor.
Granulated sugar. Adds the sweetness to this dessert. Also used for the burnt sugar topping. Superfine granulated sugar is ideal for the topping of crème brûlée. The small granules caramelize quickly and more evenly than brown sugar or coarse sugar.
Egg yolks. Using only the yolk of the egg produces a richer flavor while keeping the custard creamy.
Espresso powder. Added to the crème brûlée filling. Espresso powder is primarily used by bakers. It’s more concentrated than instant coffee and is great for not only espresso desserts but also in chocolate desserts (it won’t give off a coffee flavor in chocolate desserts, but it will enhance the chocolate flavor).
How to make Espresso ganache
The espresso ganache acts as the base layer in this espresso crème brûlée. It’s made with two simple ingredients, espresso chocolate chips, and heavy cream. For this particular recipe, 1 part morsels are used to 1 part cream. This produces a pudding-like consistency which can also be used as a frosting or to fill cakes and cupcakes.
- Melt chocolate. To make espresso ganache, simply place espresso chocolate chips and heavy cream in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Whisk together until a smooth, shiny consistency is achieved. Coat the bottom of the crème brûlée ramekins and set aside until custard filling is ready.
How to make Espresso Crème Brûlée
- Heat cream. In a medium saucepan, heat heavy cream over medium heat to a simmer. Stir occasionally to prevent the cream from burning at the bottom. Remove from heat and whisk in the seeds from the vanilla bean.
- Temper egg yolks. Whisk together sugar and yolks in a medium bowl. Ladle about 1/2 cup hot cream mixture into the sugar-egg mixture while constantly whisking to avoid causing the eggs to scramble. Pour the egg mixture into the remaining hot cream mixture and whisk together until combined. Add espresso powder and whisk until completely dissolved.
- Bake. Place ganache lined ramekins in a large, deep baking pan. Using a ladle or pitcher, divide custard evenly between ramekins. Fill the pan with boiling water about halfway up the sides of baking containers. Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until edges of custard are set and centers are barely set (slightly jiggly).
- Cool. Place hot ramekins on a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate covered for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.
- Serve. Remove espresso crème brûlée from the refrigerator and sprinkle tops with a thin layer of granulated sugar. Shake off any excess sugar. Carefully caramelize sugar with a kitchen torch and serve immediately.
Tips and takeaways
- Allow the cream to heat to a simmer before whisking together the egg yolks with the sugar. I recommend not mixing eggs and sugar together before actually needing to use them in a recipe. When eggs and sugar sit too long the sugar will “cook” the eggs. Not in the same way that it would overheat, but a chemical reaction will occur between the sugar and the protein in the eggs resulting in a clumpy mixture.
- Tempering is the process of mixing two liquids with different temperatures together without affecting the overall texture. In other words, tempering your eggs yolks will help prevent them from cooking and creating lumps in your crème brûlée mixture. To temper your eggs, add a ladle of the hot liquid to the yolks while whisking vigorously. This will cause the temperature of the yolks to become closer to the temperature of the cream. Add the egg mixture into the remaining cream mixture while whisking.
- Before pouring the espresso crème brûlée mixture into the ramekins, strain the mixture through a sieve to ensure it is completely smooth and free of any cooked eggs. This is one simple step that can ensure a perfectly smooth custard.
- Using a kitchen torch to broil crème brûlée gives you the most control to achieving a perfect, even caramelization. However, if you do not own a kitchen torch you can always use the broil setting on your oven to caramelize the sugar. To broil in an oven, place cold, baked crème brûlée in a cold oven and turn on to broil setting. Allow to broil until sugar is melted and caramelized. This method produces a more rustic look but achieves the “burnt” sugar topping.
More custards, parfaits & pudding recipes
- S’more crème brûlée
- Pumpkin custard
- Chocolate almond mousse parfaits
- No-bake cherry cheesecake parfaits