I recall having a traditional creme brûlée years ago and not liking it. I don't remember where, just that this raved upon dessert tasted a bit like an eggy mess. It turned me off completely. Then, one Valentine's Day, six years ago my dear sweet friend and old neighbor Allison brought Valentine desserts over to Ben and me. Allison has this knack of having mismatched, yet whimsical, plates, bowls & cups and other trinkets in her home. She converted me to forgoing paper napkins, due to her assortment of linen napkins I would find her using with her lunch, or serving me with a cookie on it.
There she was with two little black foiled containers filled with creme brulee sitting on one eclectic small plate; along with a cut out paper heart placed on those white paper doilies. Allison and I shared the love of eating fine food and here she was sharing this delectable creamy treat with us. As she stood there describing her love of these specific creme brulees (from a local bakery), I stood there smiling with a very thankful heart. What I didn't tell her was what I was thinking, which was, "Oh, how incredibly thoughtful, but I don't like creme brulee. I won't let Allison know." I placed the plate on the table and gave Allison a big thankful hug and said goodbye.
After I shut the door I said, "Ben, Allison brought over some dessert for us for Valentine's Day," to which he replied, "that's nice." "Yes, it was, but do you know what she brought? (because Ben knew I wasn't fond of creme brulee)," I said, "Creme Brulee!" I recall Ben laughing at my predicament and then asked, "well, are you going to try it?" Like any good foodie, regardless if past experience went awry, I responded with an astounding "Yes!"
I got two spoons and dipped my spoon to remove just a little bit. And what I tasted was nothing like scrambled eggs mixed in cream. It was simply heavenly. All Ben heard was, "MMM, OHH! Ben! (another bite) This is amazing! You have to try this! (another bite) I could eat yours if you want!" I was transformed. So when my dear friend Talia was coming over for a little birthday celebration, I knew I needed to make her creme brulee. Except, I wanted to put a spin on it by adding the sour cherry with Grand Marnier filling on the bottom. I recommend ensuring that the creme is very cold while the brulee is warm when you serve--it's the best way to eat it in my opinion (plus, did you know sweet is more pronounced when it is warmed up, so the cold creme doesn't allow the sugar to become overbearing). You'll be sure to win over even the biggest anti-creme brulee person with this dessert.
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Sour Cherry Creme Brulee with Grand Marnier (printable recipe)
Keep the egg whites to use for another recipe. And if you stay tuned, I'll share a Coconut Lime Macaroon recipe to utilize them. If you don't have a blow torch, then put your cooked & chilled creme brulee ramekins in 9x13 pan (or roasting pan) and fill it with ice, in order to keep the custards VERY cold. Turn your broiler on and put your ramekins (with the sugar on top) sitting in the ice bath directly under the broiler for only 30 seconds. Check the sugar (brulee) to ensure it doesn't get too burnt. If you need it to cook a bit more, then put it back in for another 15 seconds and continue until it reaches your desired burnt sugar liking.
Sour Cherry Filling Ingredients:
- 1 pound fresh/frozen sour cherries ( I used frozen sour cherries that were fresh in the summer)
- 1-2 Tb raw honey
- 1 Tb arrowroot powder
- 2-4 Tb Grand Marnier
Creme Brulee Ingredients:
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/3 cup evaporated cane juice sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out
- 1 tsp Grand Marnier (optional)
- 6 egg yolks, large eggs
- 1/4 cup sugar for brulee part
Sour Cherry Filling:
Put all of the cherries, along with the juices into a heavy-bottomed saucepan (ensure there are no seeds in the cherries). Turn the heat to medium. If your cherries are frozen, wait before adding any of the other ingredients until the cherries are completely thawed. If your cherries are thawed or fresh, add 1 Tb of honey and allow to bubble, stirring occasionally. Keep it in this stage for about 10 minutes. You are working towards a nice filling consistency.
Sprinkle the arrowroot over the cherries and mix thoroughly. If the mixture is bubbling rapidly, turn the heat down, in order to avoid burning. You want it to simmer/bubble. The filling should start to set as you stir occasionally. Taste throughout to see where the filling sweetness is at. If you feel that the filling needs another tablespoon of honey, add it now. Once the filling has thickened (dip a metal spoon in the filling and it should coat it), add two tablespoon of Grand Marnier (I used 2 Tb). Adding more than two tablespoons will make the filling taste more boozy; however, once the filling is added to the ramekins and cooked with the creme, the Grand Marnier burns off a bit with just two tablespoons. Cook on stove top for an additional minute, then remove from heat to cool.
Creme Brulee Ingredients:
Combine the milk, cream, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until it reaches the boiling point. Set aside to steep until it cools down.
Preheat oven to 300 F, and adjust a rack slightly lower than center.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks & optional 1 tsp of Grand Marnier briefly. Add the cream mixture very slowly into the yolks, whisking well with each addition. Once blended, strain the mixture through a fine sieve. Put cherry filling into 8 or 9 (4-ounce) shallow ramekins (about 2 inches high) to cover bottom (about 2 tsp), then pour the custard mixture on top of the cherry filling, and bake them in a water bath for 35 to 45 minutes, until centers are softly set. "Remove from oven and cool in water bath until comfortable to handle. Cover the dishes and refrigerate for 2 hours. These can be stored for 1 or 2 days before serving.
To serve, sprinkle each top with about 1 1/2 teaspoons of brulee sugar and torch to caramelize. For thicker caramelized crunch, use more sugar.