Mocha Crème Brûlée Recipe

Crème brûlée sounds super-fancy, as does just about any dish with a French name, but when you translate it to "burnt cream," it doesn't quite have the same ring to it. Thankfully, this custard-based dessert isn't burnt at all. Instead, its signature sugar topping is heated with a blow torch until it melts, so when it cools and hardens, it forms a crunchy, deeply caramelized crust. While the classic crème brûlée recipe is vanilla-flavored, recipe developer Rika Hoffman has come up with a version that she says is for "chocolate lovers only."

Hoffman says this recipe makes 2 generous servings of "decadent and rich" crème brûlée, which means it's perfect ending for a special dinner for two. To make smaller desserts for a bigger crowd, though, just use smaller (roughly 3-ounce) ramekins. However you portion these, one thing to be aware of is that crème brûlée is best as soon as its sugar topping is torched. When making this dessert ahead of time, keep the custards in the fridge for up to 3 days, then brûlée the sugar just before serving. 

Gather the ingredients for mocha crème brûlée

While this recipe has a detailed technique, it only calls for a few ingredients. All you need to make this coffee twist on a crème brûlée are egg yolks, sugar, chocolate, heavy cream, espresso powder, vanilla extract, and salt.

Step 1: Turn on the oven

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Step 2: Boil some water

Bring a kettle of water to boil. (This will be used later for the water bath.)

Step 3: Combine the egg yolks with sugar

Whisk egg yolks and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar in a large, heat-proof bowl.

Step 4: Mix the chocolate, cream, and espresso powder

Combine chopped chocolate, heavy cream, and espresso powder in a small saucepan.

Step 5: Melt the chocolate into the cream

Bring chocolate mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat, whisking until the chocolate is melted.

Step 6: Add the vanilla and salt

Remove saucepan from heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.

Step 7: Stir the chocolate into the eggs

Slowly pour the chocolate mixture into the beaten egg yolks, whisking constantly.

Step 8: Strain the custard

Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the mocha custard into a tall container for easy pouring.

Step 9: Put the ramekins into a baking dish

Place 2 (5-6 ounce) ramekins in a high-sided baking dish set on top of a baking tray.

Step 10: Pour the custard into baking dishes

Divide custard between the ramekins.

Step 11: Add boiling water to the pan

Pour boiling water into the baking dish, making sure not to splash the custard, until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover each ramekin with a piece of aluminum foil.

Step 12: Bake the custard

Bake 35-45 minutes, or until the custard is set around the edges, with a slight jiggle in the middle.

Step 13: Cool the custard

Remove the ramekins from the hot water bath and allow to cool, covered, at room temperature. Once cool, transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours.

Step 14: Sprinkle the custard with sugar

Before serving, top the chilled ramekins with the remaining 2 teaspoons granulated sugar.

Step 15: Torch the sugar

Use a kitchen torch to blowtorch the sugar until the top is bubbly and lightly browned.

Step 16: Garnish and serve the crème brûlée

Garnish with shaved chocolate, if using, and serve.

Can I make crème brûlée without a kitchen torch?

Hoffman uses a culinary torch to melt the sugar on top of her crème brûlée, but if you don't have one, she tells us that there are several other ways to do it. One of the easiest ways is to stick your crème brûlée under the broiler after you sprinkle on the sugar, but you might want to think twice before doing this. The problem with broiler brûlée is that you're also heating up the custard as you melt the sugar, but the dish tastes better when it's cold. If you are going to use the broiler, just be sure to let the ramekins warm up at room temperature for at least 10 minutes. If you put them into the oven straight from the fridge, the change in temperature might cause the ceramic dishes to crack.

Thankfully, Hoffman suggests another torch-free alternative. She says you can make caramel syrup on the stovetop using a 2:1 mixture of sugar and water, adding a little honey or corn syrup to keep the mixture from crystallizing. Stir the syrup until the sugar melts, then cook it without stirring until it darkens and just begins to smoke. Immediately pour a thin layer of syrup over the top of each custard cup, then wait for it to harden as it cools. Voila, a crunchy crème brûlée topping without the torch!

Can I change the flavor of this mocha brulee?

If you'd like to play around with the flavors in this recipe, you can change up the chocolate to suit your preferences. Hoffman uses dark chocolate here, but you could use bittersweet, milk, or white chocolate. If you end up using white chocolate, Hoffman suggests swapping out the espresso powder for either matcha or powdered freeze-dried fruits, like raspberries or strawberries, to switch things up. If you're sticking with milk or dark chocolate, replace the espresso with a combination of chile powder and cinnamon to give the dessert a similar flavor to Mexican hot chocolate.

Another way to change the taste of this chocolate crème brûlée would be to leave out the espresso powder and replace the vanilla with either mint or almond extracts. For a chocolate-almond version, you could sprinkle a layer of slivered almonds over the sugar just before it sets, while for the chocolate-mint variation, you could try crushing some candy mints into a powder and stirring them into the sugar before torching it.

Mocha Crème Brûlée Recipe
5 from 21 ratings
For a sophisticated, mocha-flavored twist on classic French crème brûlée, whip up this creamy mocha version with coffee and chocolate.
Prep Time
3.5
hours
Cook Time
45
minutes
Servings
2
servings
chocolate crème brûlées in ramekins
Total time: 4 hours, 15 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon + 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 ounce chocolate, chopped finely, plus more for shaving for garnish
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 ½ teaspoons espresso powder
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch (¹⁄₁₆ teaspoon) kosher salt
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  2. Bring a kettle of water to boil. (This will be used later for the water bath.)
  3. Whisk egg yolks and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar in a large, heat-proof bowl.
  4. Combine chopped chocolate, heavy cream, and espresso powder in a small saucepan.
  5. Bring chocolate mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat, whisking until the chocolate is melted.
  6. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.
  7. Slowly pour chocolate mixture into the beaten egg yolks, whisking constantly.
  8. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the mocha custard into a tall container for easy pouring.
  9. Place 2 (5-6 ounce) ramekins in a high-sided baking dish set on top of a baking tray.
  10. Divide custard between the ramekins.
  11. Pour boiling water into the baking dish, making sure not to splash the custard, until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
  12. Cover each ramekin with a piece of aluminum foil.
  13. Bake 35-45 minutes, or until the custard is set around the edges, with a slight jiggle in the middle.
  14. Remove the ramekins from the hot water bath and allow to cool, covered, at room temperature. Once cool, transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours.
  15. Before serving, top the chilled ramekins with the remaining 2 teaspoons granulated sugar.
  16. Use a kitchen torch to blowtorch the sugar until the top is bubbly and lightly browned.
  17. Garnish with shaved chocolate, if using, and serve.
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