a sweet for your sweet

Valentines Day is coming up soon. I've never been a big fan of the day until I met my current boyfriend. Honestly, V-day was notoriously a HUGE disappointment for me before him. I dated the typical jerk who didn't ever go out of his way to do special things for me. So when I met Matt, I told him NO VALENTINES DAY BULLSHIT. We're not celebrating, we're not doing anything, I might give you a call, that's it. Ha! Even long distance dating (He was in Singapore, I was in Miami) he wouldn't let me get away with that. February 13th not one, but two bouquets of gerber daisies (my fav flower at the time) showed up at my door with a card that said "Happy non-valentines day" - very funny. In fact, it kind of melted my heart, but also made me a little cranky. This guy thought he was so clever with his little loophole. The next day, some of Ina Garten's pancake mix showed up with a note. Not only did the dude not listen to me, he sent me a gift of food... I know the saying goes that a way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but it's so true for me too! 

To this day Matt and I have never had a "typical" Valentines Day celebration. Going to a fancy restaurant, paying for a crazy expensive pre-fixe menu, dealing with everyone and their mother's brother being out that day, AND all of the overly mushy crap? It's just not us. We take turns every other year "running the show". One year I made a big comfort food meal and topped it off with a pumpkin brioche bread pudding with crème anglaise and a bourbon caramel sauce. He's been asking me for it ever since. I really need make that again and share it with you, it was to die for! Last year it was Matt's turn and our first year in Chicago together. He took one from Oprah and did "Mo's Favorite Things" (in the awesome high pitch Oprah voice). This year it's on me again and I'm not exactly sure what my full plan is. But I do know one thing, it will definitely make our bellies happy. 

When I think of a typical V-day dessert my mind goes to chocolate, heart shapes, and red velvet. Matt likes chocolate alright but it's not his #1. He happens to love crème brûlée - me too for that matter! So this dessert was with him in mind. But I couldn't just do plain crème brûlée... I'm usually a purist but I wanted to give it a twist, do something a little extra special. And that's when it hit me... I love cream in my tea in the morning. Naturally the custard base would pair beautifully with my favorite earl grey. And with that I give you earl grey crème brûlée. It's a fun twist on a classic (when you're looking for something just a little different). If your Valentine isn't a chocolate person, maybe give this recipe a try! And if they are a chocolate person, try my quick molten chocolate cakes. They're easy, gooey, and hit the spot every time!

earl grey crème brûlée
adapted from paula deen
yields 4 - 6 servings (depending on your dish size)

1 pint (2 c.) heavy cream
2 tsp. loose leaf earl grey leaves (or 1 tea bag - I used teavanas earl grey creme)
1 vanilla bean split lengthwise 
4 egg yolks
¼ c. sugar + 4 - 6 TBSP for the brûlée top

In a medium saucepan, heat cream, tea, and vanilla bean over medium - medium low heat for 10 minutes. You want it to heat up the liquid but not simmer or boil. Basically you're warming the cream so that the flavors can infuse. Set aside to cool for another 10 minutes. 

While the liquid is cooling, beat your egg yolks in a bowl until they turn fluffy and light. It will take about 5 minutes on high speed. Once it turns a pale yellow and thickens, slowly add in a ¼ c. sugar. Beat for another 2 minutes until it's well combined and the sugar dissolves into the eggs. 

After your cream mixture has fully infused, strain it through a fine mesh sieve. You don't want any tea leaves getting into your beautiful custard! Discard the vanilla bean, it's done its job. Slowly pour the cream into the egg mixture while beaters are on. If you're not coordinated enough for that, pour a few small batches at a time into the bowl (it's called tempering). You just want to make sure you don't scramble the eggs at this point. 

Once mixture is combined, strain it one more time to make sure you get any cooked egg pieces out (cautionary measure to make sure you tempered properly). Place your ramekins or whatever dish you want to use in a baking pan with deep edges. You're going to cook the custard in a water bath so that it cooks evenly. Pour custard mixture into ramekins or dish. Place warm or hot water half way up the sides of the dish and pop into the oven for about 30-40 minutes depending on how deep your dish is. You'll know it's done cooking when the custard just wiggles a bit but doesn't look runny. Let them cool to room temperature and then pop them in the fridge for at least 4 hours and up to 2 - 3 days in advance. 

Right before serving, pull out of the refrigerator and top with about 1 TBSP of granulated sugar. You want to get a nice thick sheet of brûléed sugar on top. I found when I lightly dusted the sugar I didn't get quite as much of that crunch. Use a blowtorch and gently graze the flame across the surface of the custard in a circular motion. I find that when i quickly move the torch over the sugar it melts more evenly caramelizing the sugar instead of just burning it. If it starts to get a little too deep in color, pull the torch away for a few seconds and then start again. This will make sure you end up with crunchy, tasty sugar and not black, burnt flavored brûlée. 

improv style:
you can make any tea flavored crème brûlée you like. this recipe is a great base custard to impart your favorite flavors into. if you omit the tea leaves, you'll have your basic vanilla crème brûlée. from there you can go crazy... tea, liquor - think gran marinier or chamboard, citrus - grapefruit, lemon, orange, coffee, chocolate... you get the idea?! you'll be able to tell how your custard will taste by dipping the tip of your finger in and checking*. If the flavor isn't strong enough, add more. remember, you can always add but you can't really take away. the first time i made this recipe i used WAY too much tea and the custard tasted like a tea leaf. 

*since raw eggs are used in the custard, taste at your own risk. 

if you don't have vanilla beans you can use 1 tsp vanilla extract instead. you can also use raw sugar or brown sugar for the top. 

if you don't have a blowtorch, that's ok too. you can put the broiler on it's highest setting in your oven and place them for a few seconds underneath to melt the sugar. i will say that i don't like the results as much because it warms up the custard slightly. you could always try popping them into the freezer for a few minutes before to prevent that. i bought a cheap blowtorch from the hardware store for $10 and it will last WAY longer than one of those expensive/fancy "chef" torches you get at a cooking store. also, if you don't have crème brûlée dishes, a standard ramekin will work just fine. if you don't have those either, any oven safe bowl or dish will work. you could make one giant casserole dish if you wanted to be all romantic and share a dish. this would never work in my family as we're all dessert hogs :)

if you want to cut the recipe in half and make it for 2, just steep the tea back for slightly less time so that you don't overpower the mixture. i personally like making a batch for 4 so that i can eat it 2 nights in one week :) that's just me...


  1. This looks fabulous and if it's anything like your original creme brulee, count me in!

  2. Oh my gooodness I want this now! Morgan this looks amazing, now I just need to buy the torch!

    1. thanks lexi! it's the same recipe i make for you guys but with the addition of tea! i know you'll love it! maybe i'll make it for you when you come to visit :)

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