I am not a big coffee drinker, but not because I don’t enjoy the flavor of coffee. In fact, when I do drink coffee, I usually take it black. No creamer, no sugar, just straight up. So, why then, did I not even own a coffee pot until a few weeks ago when my in-laws, fed up with our apparent boycott on caffeine, brought us one that they can use when they visit?
The answer is that coffee makes me insane. It’s no big secret that I’m already a super neurotic person. Especially when it comes to social interactions. I overanalyze every little detail, repeating things that I said in my head, wondering if I was too awkward or inappropriate. Add coffee to the mix? I’m in full blown hysterics.
We met our friends Leigh & Tom (who are getting married in just a few weeks!) at a couples Meetup. After hanging out with them a couple times, they graciously invited us over and made us dinner. I brought brownies, we had wine. All was going well. My inner social anxiety demon was pretty quiet. As the night wore on, I noticed that Tom was looking rather tired. It was around 1 AM at that point, and I thought we should definitely get out of their hair so poor Tom could sleep.
Leigh insisted that he was fine, and we decided to play a round of Five Hundred. Tom made some coffee, and since I was getting kind of tired as well, I accepted his offer to pour me a cup. When we finally left, probably past 2 AM, I fretted all the way home about overstaying our welcome. Surely, we were the rudest couple in the world and they would never want to see us again! My husband settled in to bed after reassuring me, but I couldn’t sleep. In tears in the dark, I imagined my life unraveling before me: a friendless, lonely existence. My heart pounded in my chest. I couldn’t let it go. I couldn’t sleep.
The next morning, I texted Leigh, apologizing for staying so late. When she didn’t respond immediately, I knew that she had written me off for good. And my heart was still racing. A couple hours later, I got a text back, saying something to the effect of, “No problem! We had fun!” It was at that moment I realized that I had fallen victim, once again, to the effects of caffeine. My nemesis.
So now, if I need a boost of energy minus the crazy, I go with half-caf. But when it comes to dessert, I can put coffee flavor into just about anything and it’s smoooth sailing. I infused the cream in this custard with espresso beans, and added some chopped chocolate. It’s kind of like a mocha, but even better because it’s crème-freaking-brûlée. And it induces zero panic attacks.
- ¼ cup (20 grams) espresso beans, lightly crushed
- 3 cups (720 mL) heavy cream
- ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- pinch salt
- 2 ounces (60 grams) dark chocolate, chopped
- 9 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6-9 teaspoons turbinado sugar
- Set your oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat oven to 300°F.
- In a large saucepan, combine espresso beans, 1½ cups cream, sugar, and salt. Heat over medium heat until the mixture begins to boil stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 15 minutes.
- While the cream is steeping, place a towel on the bottom of a large roasting pan or baking dish. Set 6 ramekins into the towel. Boil a kettle of water.
- When steeping is completed, stir chopped chocolate into the cream mixture until melted (you can turn the heat back on to low, if necessary, to melt the chocolate), then add remaining 1½ cups heavy cream.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks and vanilla extract together until combined. Whisk the cream mixture into the egg yolks, 1 cup at a time, until the mixture is uniform. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a large measuring cup or a bowl with a spout. Discard espresso beans.
- Divide custard evenly between the ramekins in the roasting pan. Place the roasting pan on the oven rack, then carefully pour boiling water into the roasting pan until it comes a little more than halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Be careful not to splash water into the custard!
- Bake for 25-35 minutes, until custard is just barely set and the internal temperature of the custard is about 175°F.
- Carefully remove roasting pan from the oven (again, don't slosh water into the custard!) and transfer the ramekins to a wire rack to cool for about 2 hours. (It is easiest to use kitchen tongs, preferably silicone-tipped tongs, to move the ramekins to the rack.) Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours.
- When ready to serve, uncover the ramekins, dab off any condensation with a paper towel, and sprinkle the top of each custard with a thin layer of turbinado sugar (granulated sugar will also work), about 1-1½ teaspoons each. Shake the ramekin to distribute the sugar evenly across the surface, discarding any excess. With a kitchen torch, caramelize the sugar. Return the ramekins to the refrigerator for 30 minutes, uncovered, then serve immediately.