Until a few years ago, my contact to cranberries was limited to a few occasions – I would have them as a compote with Wiener Schnitzel or fried camembert, or, much more frequently unfortunately, in the form of juice or compressed into tablets to combat cystitis. When we moved to the UK, I made my first turkey (which is not an Austrian tradition) and served it with a cranberry sauce, of course. And it was there that the relationship ended in a way – I never really thought of anything else I could do with them.
Last week, though, when I was wrecking my brain over what to serve at a dinner party, I remembered how I made an indulging rhubarb crÃ¨me brulÃ©e a while back, surely I could adapt the recipe and turn it into something more seasonal?
A perfect, if unusual dessert for Christmas this is – a compote of apples and cranberries sitting underneath a creamy custard, seasonally spiced with cinnamon and cloves… and the inevitable burnt sugar crust on top.
I especially like this recipe because it isn’t too sweet (as many a crÃ¨me brulÃ©e I’ve had in restaurants over the years): the custard uses minimal amounts of sugar and the cranberries add a subtle tartness that beautifully balances the taste. And paired with the fact that it is so easy to prepare and can be prepared well ahead of festivities, this is definitely a keeper for the Christmas season… and for once, I’d even choose this over a chocolate dessert! (Although I won’t give up the truffles with my coffee)
And if you need any excuse to be indulging in something so moreish, look at the health aspects: cranberries are rich in antioxidants and have anti-aging properties apparently – just make sure you consume them in moderation, you don’t want to end up as a whining toddler under the Christmas tree even though the amount of presents you’d get might be overly tempting ;-))
Apple & cranberry crÃ¨me brulÃ©e
(yields 12 ramekins*)
30 g butter
3 apples (peeled & cored weight ca. 300 g)
200 g cranberries
100 g demerara (or other brown) sugar
450 ml fresh double cream
200 ml semi-skimmed milk
8 large egg yolks
100 g vanilla sugar
generous pinch ground cinnamon
generous pinch ground cloves
12 tsp caster sugar
Pre-heat oven to 140 C.
Cut the peeled and cored apples into small pieces (ca. 1-2 cm). Heat the butter in a pan, add the apples and cook for 3 minutes. Add the cranberries and sugar and cook for a further 5 minutes until the fruit is soft.
Meanwhile, gently heat the double cream and milk in a pot. Beat the egg yolks, sugar and spices until pale and creamy, ca. 5 minutes. When the cream is warm, pour gradually into the egg mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon. Skim off the foam that has built, as too many airbubbles will make it impossible to create a smooth sugar top.
Divide the fruit compote between the ramekins, then top with the custard, to approximately 5 mm under the rim.
Place the dishes in a deep baking tray and fill with boiling water, it should reach ca. 75% up the height of the ramekins.
Transfer to the oven and bake for 45 minutes (keep checking that the water doesn’t completely evaporate), until just set and still slightly wobbly in the centre. If in danger of browning too much, loosely top with foil or baking parchment.
Take out of the water bath and leave to cool. You can make this up to 2 days in advance.
When ready to serve, dust with one tsp of sugar each so that the tops are evenly coated. Using a blow torch, caramelise the sugar and leave to stand until it has hardened before serving.
* My ramekins have a diameter of 10 cm and a height of 6 cm.
This is one I am going to try but not for Thanksgiving. I have committed to making Tiramisu again. I have a blow torch I purchased earlier in the year for some far repairs so this should be fun. I cannot wait to see everyone’s face when I fire up the blow torch in the kitchen. Then again maybe I will do both.
My mother-in-law introduced me to crÃ¨me brulÃ©e. She has served several versions of the basic recipe and I liked them all. Being a perfectionist she was dismayed. Caramelizing the sugar is very hard to do in the oven. The blow torch makes the job much easier.