When I was in college, my friend used to work at a dessert restaurant. They only served fine dining desserts and boy, were they on another level. Whenever I visited and she happened to be working, she would always send over a creme brulee. They were always so creamy with that perfect thin layer of caramelized sugar on top. I thought I could never make a creme brulee as good so I never tried. But it's been so long since I had one, I decided to give it a go. My cherry creme brulee takes the classic vanilla custard and gives it some pizzaz with swirls of cherry butter. It may not be like the one I had in my college days but it sure is delicious!
Cherry Creme Brulee
- 1 lb pitted cherries
- ¼ cup orange juice
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2 ½ cups heavy cream
- 1 vanilla bean split and beans scraped
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 4 large egg yolks
- 6 tablespoon sugar for topping
- Make the cherry butter. Combine the cherries and orange juice in a medium saucepot. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to low, and continue to simmer for 30 minutes or until the cherries are softened. Remove from heat and puree the cherries until smooth. Return to the pot and add ¼ cup sugar. Continue to simmer on low for 20-25 minutes or until the cherry butter is thickened. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Combine the heavy cream and vanilla bean and seeds in a medium saucepot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once the cream starts to simmer, remove from heat and let sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and save for another use.
- Whisk together ½ cup sugar with the egg yolks in a large bowl. Slowly add the infused heavy cream to the egg mixture, whisking constantly until all of the cream has been added. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve.
- Pour enough of the custard to fill 4-ounce ramekins about ¾ full. Add 1 ½ tablespoons of the cherry butter into each ramekin, gently swirling in the butter with the custard. You don't need to fully mix the two together.
- Place the ramekins in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Pour hot water into the baking dish to come up ⅔ up the sides of the ramekins, making sure not to spill the water into the custards. Bake the creme brulee for about 40 minutes or until the edges have set but the center is jiggly. The custard should spring back just a bit when you touch the center.
- Let the custards cool in the water for 15 minutes. Remove the custard from the water bath and let cool completely. Continue to chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar evenly on top of each of the custards. Ignite your blowtorch and melt the sugar on top until it's lighlty golden and caramelized. Let cool for about 2 minutes then serve.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Creme brulee is really just a baked custard or rather, burnt cream since it has a layer of caramelized sugar on top. It's decadent and always worth the calories.
To make this cherry creme brulee, first, make the cherry butter. I used fresh cherries for this recipe but I imagine frozen ones would work just as well.
Simmer the pitted cherries with orange juice until they're softened, about 30 minutes. Puree the mixture until it's smooth, then add sugar and mix until combined. Continue to simmer the mixture until it's slightly thickened and then let it cool. You can also make the cherry butter up to 3 days in advance.
The rest of the recipe is pretty straightforward, following the traditional method for making creme brulee. Simmer heavy cream with a vanilla bean and let it sit off the heat for 15 minutes. Vanilla bean is expensive so if you prefer, you can use vanilla bean paste. In that case, just bring the heavy cream to a simmer, turn it off and stir in the vanilla bean paste.
Whisk together the egg yolks with sugar and then very slowly add the warm heavy cream, whisking constantly. You don't want to rush this step or else the heavy cream will cook the eggs and cause them to scramble. By gradually pouring in the warm cream, you're slowly bringing up the temperature of the eggs.
Strain the mixture to get a smooth custard and then fill the ramekins until they're about ¾ full. I used 2 large ramekins but you can use 6 4-ounce ramekins to make individual portions.
Now swirl in the cherry butter into each ramekin. You don't need to fully incorporate the butter with the cream. I personally enjoyed having bites of vanilla with some bites of cherry butter - it's like having two flavors in one!
Fill your baking dish with enough water to come up ⅔ the sides of the ramekins then bake the creme brulee until the edges have set. The center should still be jiggly. Keep the ramekins in the baking dish for 15 minutes, then remove them and cool completely for at least 4 hours or in the fridge overnight.
Now we all know that these desserts aren't done yet. To finish the cherry creme brulees, sprinkle sugar on the top and brulee them with a torch. You can also use a broiler but I like the control you get with a torch. Sometimes with a broiler, it can burn certain areas.
Top the custards with fresh cherries and then dig in! You don't want to wait longer than 20 minutes to enjoy the cherry creme brulees. Otherwise, the sugar topping will soften up.
I love cracking into the creme brulee and biting into the crunchy caramelized sugar with creamy custard. The swirls of cherry butter make this dessert even more special and possibly even more delicious!
For more cherry inspiration check out this caramelized honey cheesecake with cherry compote!