1 vanilla bean
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup milk
6 large egg yolks (at room temperature)
3/4 cup sugar
4 ounces each semisweet and bittersweet chocolate (or 8 oz. of semisweet), chopped
1 tablespoon Amaretto or other almond-flavored liqueur
1 tablespoon Kahlua or other coffee-flavored liqueur
Chocolate praline (see recipe below)
1. Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise; scrape seeds into a 2 to 3-quart pan. Add vanilla pod, cream, and milk. Stir occasionally over medium-high heat until mixture just begins to boil, 14 to 18 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar. Place chocolate in a small, microwave-safe glass bowl and heat in a microwave oven at half-power (50%) until soft, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Stir chocolate until smooth.
3. Lift vanilla pod from cream mixture; rinse and dry for another use or discard. Whisk about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture into egg mixture, then whisk egg mixture into remaining cream mixture. Add hot melted chocolate (if it has cooled to room temperature, reheat briefly in microwave oven just until hot to touch; do not overheat). Pour mixture into a blender and whirl until no chocolate flecks remain. Pour through a fine strainer into a 1 to 2-quart glass measure. Stir in Amaretto and Kahlua.
4. Set six to eight soufflé cups, ramekins, or teacups (1/2 to 3/4 cup) in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Fill cups equally with chocolate mixture. Set pan in a 300 degree F (150 C) regular or convection oven and carefully pour about 1 inch of boiling water into pan around cups.
5. Bake until centers of custards barely jiggle when pan is gently shaken, 30 to 35 minutes. With a slotted spatula, lift cups out. Chill until custards are cold, 1 to 1 1/4 hours (see notes).
6. Garnish each crème brûlée with a large chunk of chocolate praline. Serve any remaining praline alongside.
1. Place 1/4 cup slivered almonds in a 9-inch pie pan. Bake in a 300 degree F (150 C) regular or convection oven, shaking pan once, until nuts are golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Coat a 12-inch square of foil lightly with vegetable oil (about 1 teaspoon).
2. In an 8 to 10-inch frying pan over medium-high heat, combine 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon corn syrup, and 1 1/2 teaspoons milk. Stir occasionally until mixture is bubbly and golden, about 5 minutes. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa and stir until smooth, then stir in toasted almonds. Pour mixture onto oiled foil and spread about 1/4 inch thick. Let cool until solid, about 10 minutes. Break praline into 6 to 8 large chunks.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
NOTES: You can make this praline up to 1 week ahead; store airtight at room temperature.
Date: January 9, 2004