This Caramel Apple Crème Brûlée is like a carefully wrapped gift. Crack through a layer of hard caramel to get to the vanilla crème, which holds another surprise - sautéed apples. And before you turn away and say this sounds much too complicated, it’s not. We have some cheeky hacks for you!
Crème Brûlée is one of those desserts that I’ll order if it’s on the menu, regardless of whether I have room for dessert or not. I just love to crack the caramel with a brisk tap of my spoon, and then delve into the custard beneath. The contrast between the crunchy shards of candy and the creamy vanilla pudding is just divine. I’m always disappointed when there’s not enough sugar to cover the flan to allow for a good ‘crackle’ or when the flan underneath is still fridge cold. So that’s when I take matters into my own hands. Enter this thick slab of caramel, are you hungry for it yet? Underneath, is a creamy flan with sautéed apples nestled inside. The apples are purely optional, I added them after finding tons apples in the garage and I needed a way to use them all. Sometimes an abundance of one thing leads to great results!
If you’re thinking, ugh, all that boiling of cream and tempering of eggs sounds like a chore, go ahead and get yourself a package of vanilla pudding. It can be our little secret ;) All you need to do then, is to get to sautéing apples which is quick and easy, and making caramel is a fun way to experiment with sugar! xox Kirsty
Caramel Apple Crème Brûlée (serves 4)
For the sautéed apples:
(I highly recommend at least tripling this recipe as sautéed apples are delicious to have on hand for pancakes, ice cream and yogurt!)
1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices horizontally, along the equator
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons brown sugar or honey
pinch of salt
Melt the butter in a medium skillet, when it has melted, add the brown sugar and salt. Stir to combine. Add the apple slices and let simmer for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
For the vanilla crème (pudding):
Option 1 - The Hack
Use a boxed mix, and follow the instructions. I recommend Dr Oetker’s Crème Brûlée Mix for this, available at supermarkets and online.
Option 2 - From Scratch
3 egg yolks (freeze the whites for meringues or omelets)
1/4 cup (45g) sugar
1-1/2 cups (355ml) heavy cream
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Place 4 ovenproof, single-serve ramekins in a roasting pan. My ramekins are 3-inches (7.5cm) in diameter and 1-1/2 inches (4cm) deep. Boil a kettle of water. You’ll need the hot water later, to pour into the roasting pan, around the ramekins.
In a medium, heat-proof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar.
In a saucepan, combine the cream and salt, heat until just about to boil, then take it off the heat. Using a big ladle, measuring cup or mug, slowly drizzle about a 1/2 cup measure of the hot cream into the the egg mixture, whisking all the while. It’s important NOT to dump the hot liquid into the bowl, and to do this slowly, so that the egg will not scramble. This is called tempering the egg.
Continue to stir, don’t stop! When it's combined, pour the egg mixture from the bowl back into the saucepan, add the vanilla extract and stir to combine.
Add a couple of slices of sautéed apple to each ramekin. Divide the cream mixture amongst the 4 ramekins, each about 3/4 full. Set them into the roasting pan and pour in enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides. Bake in the preheated oven until they are set, but still a bit wobbly when nudged, about 40 minutes. Remove ramekins from the hot water and chill for at least 2 hours. This can easily be made a day ahead up to this point.
Remove from the fridge half an hour before serving.
For the Caramel Candy topping:
Option 1 - The Hack, for a classic burnt sugar topping
If you don’t want to go all 'mad scientist' with the caramel candy, sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on top of the pudding and burn it with a kitchen torch, or pop it under a hot broiler for 30-60 seconds until it starts to bubble and brown. Serve immediately.
Option 2 - From Scratch, for a thick caramel candy topping
2 tablespoons (30ml) water
3/4 cup (145g) sugar
Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking tray. Pour the water into a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the sugar to the middle of the pan so it forms a little mound. This will prevent it from creeping up the edges of the pan and crystallizing. Turn the heat to medium-low until the sugar starts to dissolve. Fight the urge to stir as it will cause it to crystalize. When you see that the sugar is starting to dissolve, you can gently shimmy the pan from side to side, but don't stir! Turn up the heat to medium-high until the sugar turns a dark golden brown.
This is where it’s time to play if you’re feeling like it! You could pour the caramel onto the parchment paper in little rounds to fit in the ramekins (trace around the ramekins on the backside of the paper as a guide), or you can pour it out in one thin layer and decorate the puddings with shards of hard caramel. You can get creative and make all sorts of different shapes. Either way, when you’ve poured the hot caramel, leave to cool before moving, or breaking, it. When you're ready to serve, decorate the puddings to your liking and serve immediately. The caramel may start to melt after 10-15 minutes due to the moisture of the pudding. Crack away with your spoon!
Store extras in a plastic bag in a dry environment. Do not store it in the fridge or it will soften.