At this time of year, the nights are drawing in early and softening everything with that deep purple light of late autumn dusk. The streets crackle with crisp leaves and we think of reasons to curl up indoors and treat ourselves to some luxury. Since I’ve been doing just that while in my pyjamas I wanted to make it a real extravagance to make up for that.
I’ve had some fresh dates on the windowsill for several weeks and have been watching them turn from smooth yellow orbs to golden brown wrinkled ovals in a most seasonal fashion and inspired by their colour I decided they needed some autumnal crunch in the shape of brown sugar. It just had to be crème brûlée.
The word crème is crucial here. Make this glorious oh so easy dessert with double cream and you’ll get the perfect balance between smooth custard and the crunchy burnt sugar topping. The best bit is that you can make in advance and stash it in the fridge until needed to impress someone.
Date Crème Brûlée (makes 2 large or 4 small)
- 300ml double cream
- 2 tablespoons date syrup (or caster sugar)
- 50g dates
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons demerara sugar
I used fresh dates which I impulse purchased from the market thinking they were something else. I tried one when they were still crunchy and nearly turned my mouth inside out with the bitterness. Leave them to wither and turn brown and you’ll be rewarded with sweetness beyond your wildest imagination. Or pick up a tray of the ready dried ones with the little fork from the Nour.
Heat the oven to 150℃. Place two ramekins in a deep oven proof dish. Beat the egg yolks and the date syrup together until they form a slightly airy mix. Pour the cream into a saucepan and heat over a medium heat until just boiling. Add in the pureed dates and stir well. Then add into it into the egg yolk mix. Transferring it from the pan to a bowl will cool the cream just enough to make sure the eggs don’t curdle. Make sure it is evenly mixed and voila, you have custard!
Pour the custard into the ramekins, leaving a bit of space at the top. Then fill the oven proof dish with cold water until it comes about 2/3s of the way up the dishes. This makes a water bath or bain marie and it cooks the custard gently so it stays wobblingly soft and yielding instead of omelette like. Bake for about 40 minutes.
Once cooled, sprinkle the top of the custard with the demerara sugar and grill under a very hot grill for about 5 minutes until blistered and melted. Cool down again for a bout 10 minutes and the sugar will have formed a glistening crust that just cries out to be shattered with a spoon and eaten alongside the smooth creamy sweet custard with gusto. I won’t judge you at all if you run your finger round the dish to finish it all off…