Creme brulees are a popular restaurant dessert because, while they are delicious, they are actually very simple to make and can be prepared easily in advance of service. Since they’re so common, I tend to forget that I can make them at home – and make them much better – than the versions you can find at most restaurants. This Cafe Con Leche Creme Brulee is an absolutely unforgettable dessert and a fantastic twist on a traditional creme brulee for coffee-lovers. The custard is silky smooth and has just the right balance of sweetness, coffee and cream in every bite. It’s delicious on its own, but is simply a standout when combined with the crunch of caramelized sugar on top of the dessert.
The ingredient list is very short and it takes very little time to put this dessert together. The key ingredient is instant espresso powder, which contributes a strong coffee flavor with only a small quantity of the powder. Whisk vigorously to ensure that the espresso powder is completely incorporated, as some brands have larger crystals than others. This is an excellent recipe to make if you have a bunch of leftover egg yolks to use up because it only uses yolks, not whole eggs. The egg yolks thicken the custard while it is baking in the oven, but they thicken it only enough so that the custard is just set. As a result, the finished dessert is incredibly delicate and silky smooth.
I made these in six relatively shallow creme brulee dishes. Shallower dishes deliver a better ratio of custard to caramelized sugar, in my opinion, so I prefer to use shallow dishes for this type of recipe when I can. That being said, you can bake the custards in deeper ramekins. This recipes yields 6 4-oz servings or 4 6-oz servings, if you opt to use a deeper dish. The baking time will not be that much different (maybe a few additional minutes), but the technique is exactly the same.
I like to prepare these the night before so that they have plenty of time to chill and I don’t have to do much last-minute prep. The can be stored in the refrigerator for at least a day before serving.
Cafe Con Leche Creme Brulee
6 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup milk (pref whole)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
sugar, for topping
Preheat oven to 325F. Take out 6 4-oz ramekins and set in a large baking dish. Fill baking dish with water so it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, espresso powder and sugar until mixture is uniform. Whisk in heavy cream, milk and vanilla extract. Strain mixture into a large measuring cup with a pour spout. Divide mixture evenly into ramekins.
Bake for 35 minutes, or until the centers of the custards are just set. Allow custards to cool to room temperature in the water bath, then refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours.
Before serving, sprinkle with sugar and cook under the broiler for about 3 minutes to cook the sugar into caramel (this can also be done with a kitchen torch).
Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve.