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Chestnut Crème Brûlée

When the chill in the air arrives in Paris, street vendors seem to pop up on every corner roasting chestnuts. Sitting on a park bench is the perfect place to peel off their warm outer shell and enjoy their earthy, smoky flavor while watching the world go by.

I was pondering what flavors invoke the holidays when my friend Pierre suggested that I make a version of this “burnt cream” with chestnut purée. The idea immediately took to me the aromas of these nuts roasting around Paris this time of year.

Many recipes suggest “burning” the cream under a broiler. However, I find that using a blow torch gives you more control and greater efficiency. I also discovered that the crème can be brûléed several hours prior to serving.  After you have brunt the sugar simply place them back in the refrigerator (uncovered) until ready to serve.

Makes 8 – six ounce ramekins

24 ounces (3 cups) heavy whipping cream
8 ounces (1 cup) whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise, seeds scrapped
1 cinnamon stick
1 pinch kosher salt
3 1/2 ounces (½ cup) granulated sugar
8 large egg yolks
4 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup  + 1 tablespoon or 120 g) chestnut purée, room temperature
8 tablespoons Turbinado sugar (divided)

Preheat oven to 300°F.

In a saucepan set over medium heat, combine cream, milk, vanilla bean, plus the scraped seeds, cinnamon stick, and salt. Bring to a simmer Remove from heat, cover and let stand at least 1/2 hour. Whisk in chestnut purée.

In a medium bowl whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Temper the eggs with the hot cream mixture. Pour mixture through a sieve into a pitcher pushing any chestnut purée through with a rubber spatula.  Discard vanilla bean and cinnamon stick.

Divide chestnut mixture evenly between 8 (6-ounce) ramekins. Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet pan, and fill pan with hot water about halfway up the ramekins.

Bake until the parameter of each custard is set but the center still jiggles a little, about 45 – 50 minutes. Carefully remove from oven, let them cool to room temperature in the water bath; then remove from the water bath, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate the custards overnight.

To brulée the custards position an oven rack 6 inches from broiler. Preheat oven to broil. Top each custard evenly with 1 tablespoon sugar. Broil in groups of 4 until sugar is melted and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Or as I have suggested in the head-notes, use a blowtorch to individually brulée each of them.