Crème Brûlée is everyone’s favourite dessert. And what’s not to love about it? Hearing the sugar crack when you plunge your spoon through the caramelised toffee on top is sheer bliss. The silky smooth custard, the hint of real vanilla, these are all things that make crème brûlée a classic that you shouldn’t really mess with. Which is exactly why I’m about to change it! I have a killer crème brûlée recipe but have always felt the dessert needs short, buttery pastry to complete it – so I encased the custard filling in it to make tarts. But when Food & Home Entertaining Magazine challenged me to use liquid smoke in an unconventional way, I added a few drops and it was pure heaven!  Find the recipe below…

Smoked Vanilla Crème Brûlée Tartlets

Yield: 4 tartlets

Ingredients

    SWEET PASTRY
  • 250g cake flour
  • 60g icing sugar, sifted
  • 120g salted butter, coarsely chopped
  • 3 large egg yolks  
  • FILLING
  • 185ml fresh cream
  • 1 vanilla pod, split
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 40g Natura Sugars Golden Caster Sugar + extra, to top
  • 3 – 4 drops liquid smoke

Instructions

  1. For the pastry, blitz the cake flour and icing sugar in a food processor to combine, then add the butter and continue blitzing until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the 3 egg yolks and blitz until just combined.
  3. Tip out the pastry onto a clean work surface and bring the pastry together with your hands to form a ball. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate, 1 hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180C (or 160C for fan-assisted ovens).
  5. Roll out the pastry on a lightly flour-dusted work surface to 0,5cm thickness and line 4 fluted, loose-bottomed tart tins (10cm-diameters) with the pastry.
  6. Trim the edges with a sharp knife and refrigerate to rest, 1 hour.
  7. Once the pastry case has chilled, line it with baking paper, fill with baking beans or pulses and blind-bake in the preheated oven, 8 –10 minutes, until crisp and light brown and crispy.
  8. Remove from oven, take out the baking beans and discard the baking paper used for the blind baking.
  9. Return the pastry case to the oven to bake, a further 8 –10 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
  10. For the brûlée, lower the oven temperature to 140C (120C for fan-assisted ovens).
  11. In a small saucepan, heat the fresh cream along with the split vanilla pod and seeds to just below boiling point.
  12. Cream the 2 egg yolks and castor sugar together in a medium bowl.
  13. Add the liquid smoke. In a steady stream, pour the warm vanilla cream into the egg mixture while whisking continuously.
  14. Strain the mixture through a sieve, discard the bits and divide the filling among the baked pastry cases.
  15. Bake, 35 – 40 minutes, until set and the centre wobbles slightly.
  16. Remove the tartlets from their tins and allow to cool down to room temperature.
  17. Store the tartlets in the fridge until needed. They can keep for 2 days in the fridge.
  18. Sprinkle a layer of sugar over each tartlet and brûlée them, using a kitchen blowtorch.
  19. TIP: If a kitchen blowtorch is not available, preheat the oven’s grill and place the tartlets underneath the grill for a couple of seconds to caramelise.
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