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Pain d’Epices Creme Brulee

Macarons are great, no doubt about it, the only caveat when you make them on a regular basis is that you are left with quite a lot of egg yolks. B. will tell you that this is never a real problem and when you consider the endless possibilities if egg yolks based desserts, I’d say he is right. Custards, creme anglaise, pots de cremes, zabaglione, chocolate mousse, etc…and of course cremes brulees!

I have had the same relationship with cremes brulees as I have had with macarons. I love to make macarons, but did not start really liking eatng them until a couple of years ago when I let my imagination free and started to play with fillings, toppings, centers, etc…It was kind of the same with creme brulees. The owner of the restaurant I worked for hated two things: cinnamon and flavored creme brulees. The custards had to remain as plain as possible and since I had to make close to 100 a day I quickly started to hate making them, but still loved eating some whenever we went to diner somewhere. As soon as the owners would go on vacation or took a night out, you can be sure that I was playing with the liquor cabinet and the fruit purees!!

When my mother came to visit she brought with her a couple of syrups I had been eyeing for some time and while I have not completely figured out what to do with some of them, I knew this "Liqueur de Pain d’Epices" would end up in a custard of some sort. Pain d’epices is one of those traditional French cakes that as a child you either love or hate. I happen to love it with a passion.
According to The French Food and Cook, "Pain d’épices originally comes from China and was imported in France in the Middle Ages, in particular in East France, with the cities of Dijon and Reims as leading producers. Today, pain d’épices remains a specialty of Eastern France (Dijon, Alsace…). Pain d’épices that usually contents 30% of honey is very energetic and was considered as a very good medicine." The common spice blend found in the cake loaf is usually a combination of orange peel, anise seeds, cinnamon, coves and sometimes juniper berries. I like that I was already self-medicating at a young age with cakes…

The liqueur itself had definite notes of cloves and anise and was somewhat reminiscent of Bailey’s with a note of orange peel in color and texture. Pretty darn good! The recipe for the creme brulee is my usual standard one; you can add pretty much anything you like to flavor and it turns out smooth and creamy everytime. There is nothing better than the crackling sound your spoon makes when you hit that burnt sugar crust..hmmhmmhmm. I strongly recommend you invest in a blow torch which you can find at any hardware store. Not only will you get great crusts everytime, but you can also use it for meringue pies for example. I find that a combination of granulated sugar and brown sugar helps achieve a tasty crust that is easy to "burn" heavenly.

For the Creme Brulee: serves 4

1 cup egg yolks (between 6 and 8 depending on the size of your eggs)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup liqueur de pain d’epices, or any other liqueur of your liking
1/4 cup brown sugar mixed with 1/4 cup white sugar for brulee topping

Preheat oven to 350F. Place 4 ramequins inside a roasting pan and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow. Heat the cream until scalding hot. Slowly whisk it into the egg yolk mixture, mix well, but not too vigorously or you will add too much air. Pour into a container and let cool to room temperature. Pass the mixture through a sieve in a container with a spout (the spout is not necessary but it makes pouring easier), and divide among the 4 ramequins. Pour water to about halfway up the sides of the ramequins and put the pan in the oven. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the mixture appear almost set, it should still wiggle a bit in the middle. It is ok to remove the pan from the oven at that point as the custard will continue to bake and set. Let cool to room, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Right before serving: divide sugar on top of each custard and use a blow torch to caramelise the top or put the pan under the broiler.
In my family we say that a good creme brulee is hot on top, room temp in the middle and cold at the bottom.

Last thing: the dishes are minis that my mother sent me the other day so I ended up with 8 minis but they were the perfect 2 bite treats with coffee.

Happy Easter!

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Jaime March 23, 2008 um 2:01 am

i adore creme brulee 🙂 even the plain vanilla kind! your burnt sugar top looks perfect!

MyKitchenInHalfCups March 23, 2008 um 2:23 am

Oh, yes, I love that crust on a creme brulee!!! And it’s such great fun to whip out the ol blow torch and burn it!! Every time I’ve done it it’s a wow!

Anonymous March 23, 2008 um 2:48 am

I have an unnatural love for creme brulee… and that "tink" of the sugar breaking? Heaven.

Happy Easter!

Obsessive Foodie or Food Addict….You Decide March 23, 2008 um 4:12 am

I love creme brulee……and I love cinnamon. You must have worked for the devil himself. Who doesn’t like cinnamon?? evil I tell you, the person must have been evil. On a happier note, HAPPY EASTER!

Mandy March 23, 2008 um 4:17 am

I can’t tell from the photos that they are mini! I will probably have to eat more than one of them if I make it this size. 🙂

Anonymous March 23, 2008 um 8:05 am

mmmmh, c’est bon!

Anonymous March 23, 2008 um 8:39 am

Yum! I love creme brulee but have never tried it myself though…still have to one day.

Manggy March 23, 2008 um 12:32 pm

I have not yet had the fortune of trying Pain d’Epices. It sounds wonderful, I will look out for it the next time I’m in France– so when I’m 40, maybe, 🙁

I usually have a an excess of whites from making custards, so I think it is my turn to learn to make macaroons as lovely as yours!

Mallow March 23, 2008 um 1:13 pm

I have the opposite problem – I’m always making stuff that just needs the egg yolks, and then have to find ways to use up the whites. I think that means I need to learn to make those macarons….

Kay March 23, 2008 um 1:21 pm

How funny: a good friend of mine and I were JUST talking about kicking our roommates out of our kitchens and having a creme brulee day! I think this must be a sign…mmm. Your creme brulee looks quite lovely, by the way! Oh–and Happy Easter!

Kelly-Jane March 23, 2008 um 1:51 pm

I love creme brulee too, I have a similar liqueur that would be just right here, mmm.

Babeth March 23, 2008 um 2:20 pm

I bet it was pretty darn good! Prosper et youplaboum le roi du pain d’epice as a special guest in this recipe 🙂

.vivian. March 23, 2008 um 3:04 pm

i had heard so much about creme brulee and up until 2weeks ago, i had never tried it. i found a super simple recipe on and it was absolutely delish. so, i guess i’ve become obsessed! these look delicious and although I have never tried pain d’epices, i’m sure it tastes amazing. your culinary concoctions are always an inspiration to me!

Lis March 23, 2008 um 3:11 pm

I have still never ate creme brulee yet! So please send me about 10 of the minis so I can be sure I like them.

2 bite desserts.. HAR! You make me larf out loud my love! heheeee!

They look and sound utterly delicious. 🙂


Cannelle Et Vanille March 23, 2008 um 4:03 pm

I love, love, love pain d’epices! Did I say I love it? Yes, I do. At the last place I worked, I used to make loaves and then cut super thin slices, toast them in the oven and while warm, shape them in tuile pans. I used to serve that as a garnish for a licorice creme brulee that was also accompanied by huckleberry compote. Delicious! You just made me miss it!

Anonymous March 23, 2008 um 7:26 pm

Creme Brulee is one of my favorite desserts! I loved your heavenly burned crust too:)

Shari March 23, 2008 um 8:56 pm

I’ll have to keep my eye out for "pain d’epices". Sounds delicious! Love your photos!

Cannelle Et Vanille March 23, 2008 um 9:30 pm

By the way, love your new banner. Very clean and chic!

Veron March 23, 2008 um 10:06 pm

I must say, I am one of those people who love creme brulee unflavored or only with vanilla. But I shall eat anything you prepare!

Cakebrain March 23, 2008 um 11:40 pm

I’ve never come across pain d’epices here, but now I’ll be on the lookout at the gourmet shops! Your creme brulees look fabulous!

BitterSweet March 24, 2008 um 1:50 am

You must have read my mind- I’ve recently become addicted to creme brulee and have been thinking of all different flavors and such. Liqueur is always a good answer, huh?

Jessy and her dog Winnie March 24, 2008 um 1:59 am

I have never had creme brulee, but your picture makes me want to try it!

Gretchen Noelle March 24, 2008 um 4:10 am

Have I mentioned that creme brulee is one of my favorite desserts?

Erin Krenek March 24, 2008 um 5:00 am

Last week I ended up with about a cup of yolks and had no idea what to do with them. Thanks for the recipe!

Susan @ SGCC March 24, 2008 um 6:58 am

Gorgeous creme brulees! It is one of my all time favorites. That sound of cracking sugar is music to my ears!

I love the new blog header too!

Anonymous March 24, 2008 um 11:15 am

Happy Easter Tartelette! And it cannot be anything but happy if there is some creme brulee involved ;).

Anonymous March 24, 2008 um 1:35 pm

Awesome! I made creme brulee too this weekend! Though I did not realize you could flavor it with liqueur! Duh!

Anonymous March 24, 2008 um 3:03 pm

i love creme brulee, and i actually prefer the plan vanilla (of course, i’ve never had to make 100 a day). i really need to invest in a blowtorch!

Chris March 24, 2008 um 3:28 pm

LOVE creme brulee! Would like some this very moment, please! 🙂 And the new banner? Tre Chic!

Jaxon March 24, 2008 um 4:27 pm

I’ve always wanted to make this but burning the sugar scared me. But I made BAKLAVA this week-end, can I say that again? I made BAKLAVA and it was terrific so I feel I can conquer anything! Except those cookies, I cannot make those cookies, so what will I do with all the whites?

Can I just mention again I successfully made a big scary BAKLAVA and it was delicious? I’m just so proud.

Anna March 24, 2008 um 4:38 pm

My inner pyromaniac gets great joy from burning creme brulee, but the rest of me gets great joy from looking at yours =P. Oooh I really want one now…

Anonymous March 24, 2008 um 5:03 pm

Really interesting flavor addition! I must admit, I’m a traditional creme brulee girl. I let my pots de creme have all the fun and jazz it up with flavor.

Anonymous March 25, 2008 um 12:36 am

Look at the sugar crust on these babies! Yum!
I never heard of 'Liqueur de pain d’epices' before. Time for me to start an investigation. 🙂

Half Baked March 25, 2008 um 1:08 am

Creme brulee is one of my favorite desserts. I love the ideas of two bites. the perfect size:)

Anonymous March 25, 2008 um 2:12 am

Ooh, it’s all sexy and crackling. I love it. I loves it loads!

Nina Timm March 25, 2008 um 5:20 am

Must be one of my favorite desserts. It is so simple and yet it always amazes people…..Must be the effect of the blow torch.

Emily March 25, 2008 um 5:26 am

Great tip with the brown sugar and white sugar on top! I’m going to have to try that.

This sounds like something I would love.

Peabody March 25, 2008 um 8:41 am

When I make traditional brulee, I like the brown sugar/granulated sugar combo also…great job less evil twin!

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