My family has quite a few traditions around the holidays, most of them very casual and fun. With my mom’s side of the family, we go bowling every Christmas Eve. And with Jeff’s parents on Christmas Day, we open gifts, have dinner, and then end the day playing cards over coffee and dessert.
Because that evening tops off nearly two days straight of eating and drinking, I try to keep dessert simple and small. This Gingerbread Crème Brûlée is rich, but served in small mason jars for a nice balance.
And it wouldn’t be the holidays with just plain old crème brûlée. This one is full of cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg – all of those great gingerbread flavors everybody loves.
Coffee is the perfect complement to our card games and crème brûlée. While I’m a coffee lover all day, every day, the rich flavor really pairs great with the creamy custard and sweet, crunchy sugar topping of this special dessert.
For The Custard:
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 5 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Pinch of kosher salt
For the Topping:
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F; heat large kettle of water to boiling. Place four 1/2-pint mason jars or 6-ounce ramekins in roasting pan.
- In small saucepan, heat cream and 3 tablespoons sugar over medium heat 6 to 7 minutes until cream just starts to bubble around edges of pan (do not bring to a full boil).
- Meanwhile, in large bowl, whisk egg yolks, molasses, vanilla bean paste, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, salt and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until well combined. While whisking, use ladle to slowly add 3 ladlefuls of hot cream mixture to egg mixture. Gradually whisk in remaining cream mixture. Strain through fine mesh strainer into large liquid measuring cup.
- Divide custard mixture between jars; place roasting pan in oven. Add enough boiling water to come halfway up sides of the ramekins. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until custards are just set (they should tremble slightly in the middle, but be set on outer edges).
- Use tongs to carefully transfer ramekins to cooling rack; let stand 30 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 4 hours or up to 2 days before serving.
- To serve, sprinkle about 1 tablespoon sugar over each custard. Using blowtorch, caramelize top of each custard until sugar bubbles and turns brown (this can also be done under a broiler). Serve immediately.
Home Chef Tip: Don't skip straining the custard mixture through a fine mesh strainer in Step 3. This is imperative to get out any cooked bits of egg and achieve a silky smooth finished product.