Cadbury Creme Eggs: a guilty pleasure if there ever was one. If they were available all year long, I’m sure I’d be able to resist them, but because they’re so intimately linked to springtime and Easter, it seems almost irreverent not to buy a few each year.
I’m one of those people who everyone should be jealous of because I have the good fortune to have in-laws that I really, truly love having in my life. My mother-in-law in particular is an enthusiastic supporter of the blog and sent a request for a blog-worthy contribution for Easter through the contact form on the website. I was very excited about that because it was the first message I got that way! Her request got me thinking about Easter and what I could make. I wanted to do something different, and because I can’t resist a food pun once I’ve thought of it, the Cadbury Creme Brul’egg was born.
I bought both normal and mini Cadbury Creme Eggs at the store on Saturday. I also spotted these chicken-footed egg cups at Whole Foods and picked them up because they were oven safe and went with the eggy theme so well. Each of the egg cups got one mini egg, and I experimented with one large egg in two of the four ounce ramekins and three mini ones in the other two.
The absolute best creme brulee recipe I’ve found comes from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking, so I pulled out my copy of the book and scaled the recipe down by a third to fit the combined volume of the ramekins and egg cups. Cream, sugar and a vanilla bean rose to a simmer together, and then steeped for 15 minutes. Rather than whisking the cream into the egg yolks by hand at that point, I always pour the hot cream in while running the whip attachment on my Kitchen Aid at a very low speed. Try to avoid whipping any more air into the eggs than necessary, because the air will show up as unattractive bubbles on top of the custard.
Once the cream and egg are mixed together, I strained the mixture into a large measuring cup and poured it carefully up to the rim of each egg cup and ramekin.
You probably will end up with a few bubbles on the surface of the custard, even if you carefully whisk by hand. Any ridges of custard on the surface will brown when you are melting the sugar on top before serving, so the best thing to do is to get your blow torch out early and carefully pop the bubbles with a quick brush of a low flame across the top. Be extremely careful to avoid any places where the chocolate is peeking up above the surface. Chocolate scorches at a very low temperature and can’t handle the heat of the torch.
See how the bubbles disappear nicely?
At this point, I filled the baking dish holding the ramekins with boiling water, about two-thirds of the way up their sides, covered the top tightly with foil to keep the tops from overcooking and put the whole thing in a 300 degree oven for 40 minutes. When they came out, I discovered that it may not have been the best idea to mix the egg cups and the ramekins in the same dish. The egg cups are taller, so they tented the foil above the rims of the ramekins and allowed condensation to form above and then pool on the tops of the larger custards. Luckily, the damage was not too bad, but in the future I’d use two smaller baking dishes.
Once the custards are set–they still wiggle, but they wiggle as one mass–I took the baking dish out of the oven. This is a dangerous moment, with a heavy load of boiling water sloshing about, so I always remind myself of something my chef once told me when I was pulling a full sheet pan of boiling water out of an eye-level oven: water can be mopped up, but skin can’t be unburned. You can always remove the ramekins from the pan while it’s still in the oven (use silicone baking mitts and, once again, be careful) and then move the water when it’s cool. When the ramekins are cool enough to handle, I put them on a baking rack until they get down to room temperature, then stash them away in the fridge to chill for at least two hours before serving.
While I was waiting for the ramekins to do their thing in the fridge, I melted the last bit of yellow sugar from the Battlestar Galactica cupcakes in the microwave and used it to make a couple of cast sugar chicks. This is one of the first sugar tutorials I plan to do, but the basic technique is, well, basic: oil a cookie cutter, set it on top of a Silpat and pour just enough molten sugar in to fill in the shape. I had to slide the cookie cutter around a bit to get sugar into the beaks and tails, but otherwise it was as easy as that. I added a bit of sugar at the bottom of each one to stick down into the creme brulee, and then swirled what was left of the melted sugar around to make some more random decorations.
The key to a good, even caramelized creme brulee top is a good, even layer of sugar. When I’m doing small ones, I like to use this tea strainer to dust my sugar over the top. (For large, multi-person creme brulees, I spread the sugar around with a small offset spatula.) If you’re feeling especially OCD, it also helps to tilt the ramekin around to be sure no custard is peeking through, waiting to get singed. For a neater appearance, wipe the sugar off of the rim with a paper towel before burning the top.
My strategy for brulee-ing my cremes is to keep the flame low and keep it moving. I like to get the whole surface partially melted before I start trying for color. Once I get a little caramel action going, I sprinkle another light layer of sugar over it all and then proceed until everything’s nice and golden.
This first way of finishing the presentation was Chris’ idea. He thought it would be cool to “crack” a Cadbury Creme Egg over the top and brulee the sugary “white” and “yolk”. The filling caramelized pretty nicely, but I found it hard to avoid scorching the chocolate shell. I cut away the blackened bits I could see, but Chris–who wanted to eat the one he’d inspired–still got a burnt piece of chocolate. Maybe if I’d been a little more careful it would have worked.
Here’s another one of the large ones with one of those random sugar decorations I mentioned earlier. I pressed it down into the custard immediately after torching the top and held it in place for a moment while the newly caramelized sugar cooled around it. I was impressed at how well the sugar decorations stayed upright.
Here’s one of the egg cups with a sugar chick and a mini egg. I liked the splash of color that serving one of the candies in its wrapper added.
So, you ask, how did they taste?
Well, they were extraordinarily rich. Creme brulee and creme eggs kinda added up to guilty pleasure overload. I almost always put something in my creme brulee, but I realized that what I usually add are things like berries, which cut the sweetness and the heavy creaminess of the custard. The creme egg, on the other hand, intensified that. But they weren’t bad, either. If you love Cadbury Creme Eggs and have nothing against sugar, this might be just the Easter treat for you. I noticed that the ones with just the one large egg were more successful than the ones with all the little eggs in them.
If I were to make these again, I might try replacing the sugar in the recipe with melting a few creme eggs straight into the cream at the beginning, and then “cracking” one on top when I served it. However, I think I’ll be looking for a different dessert to bring over on Easter. Ooo…what about Peeps Suzette?!
Hmm…maybe I’d better stay away from punny foods for awhile.
Other Sugar Work Posts at Pie of the Tiger:
Sugar Work Lesson 1: Casting Sugar
Sugar Work Equipment
Sugar Work (Pastry School Flashbacks)
Battlestar Galactica Cupcakes with Sugar Decorations