Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chai Tea Creme Brulee

I wanted to post a recipe that is both easy to make as well as different enough to impress your dinner guests. After some head scratching, I decided on a Creme Brulee that my daughter made during a charity benefit for the Elizabeth Hospice a few years ago. At the time, she was working for a chef at a now defunct Escondido restaurant.

I like the enhancements she made to a simple creme brulee recipe. She added Chai tea to the custard to give it a wonderful taste. And she prepred the creme brulee in an eggshell making for a very unique presentation - little golden jewels hidden inside the eggshells.

This is a very simple recipe to follow and can be made by just about anyone. The nice part, if you are entertaining, is that most of it can be done ahead of time and just finished while coffee is brewing!


              • 1/2 cup of sugar
              • 8 large egg yolks
              • 2 cups heavy cream
              • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
              • 2 tablespoons chai tea

Step 1 - Prepare the eggshells and extract the egg yolks
               This step can be done ahead of time
                Duration 15 minutes

This video shows how simple this is to do. Use a small, sharp knife and keep running it along the side of the egg until it starts cutting. Just keep going until the top comes off. Do not press too hard as it will crack the egg. We experimented with a straight edge knife and a serated knife. Both of them worked well. When done, rinse out the eggshells. You can actually remove the ragged edges by trimming the eggshell with a small pair of scissors. I like leaving it as is.

Step 2 - Prepare custard
              This step can be done ahead of time

              Duration 15 minutes

Making a custard is real simple. There is only one tricky step. It involves adding hot cream to a beaten egg and sugar mixture. If the cream is added too fast, it will cook the eggs resulting in a lumpy mixture rather than a smooth custard. So here's what you do:

Preheat your oven to 325 F.
Find a glass or ceramic dish that is deep enough for the egg shells when they stand up.
Boil enough water to fill the dish. You will use this later.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar until the sugar has melted.

In a saucepan, add the cream, vanilla and chai tea. Heat it up until the cream is simmering. Do NOT bring to a boil. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Enjoy the smell of the cardamon!

Now for the tricky part. You have to add the hot cream to the egg and sugar mixture. Add about a tablespoon at a time while whisking the egg. This will keep the egg from cooking. You can do this by pouring it directly from the saucepan, very carefully and slowly or if that feels too stressful, you can use a measuring cup and pouring it a tablespoon at a time. Do this until you have added about a cup of the cream. You can then pour the rest of the cream into the mixture.

Strain the custard through a fine mesh strainer to remove the tea.

Voila! You have a custard.

Step 3 - Bake the custard
             Done right after Step 2
             Duration 50 minutes

Using a measuring cup, pour the custard into the eggsshells. Fill until close to the top. If it is too deep inside, you will have a hard time finishing it later.

Notice that you can use the egg container to hold the eggshells.

Put the container in the ovenproof dish and add hot water. Make sure the water reaches three quarters of the way up the eggshells so the custard cooks correctly.

Place in oven and set the timer for 45 mins.

Check for doneness. The top should be set but the custard should still jiggle.

Remove from oven and place in refrigerator.

Step 4 - Refrigerate custard
             Done right after step 3
             Duration 2 hours to overnight

Step 5 - Finish the topping
              Done just before serving
              Duration 10 minutes

The final, which you can do just before serving, is to sprinkle some sugar on the top of the custard and use a torch to caramelize it. It is hard to make as uniform a crust as you would do if you did this in a ramekin but it will still taste delicious.


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for uploading this! Very nicely laid out with lots of lovely shots of the process. I look forward to making this

  2. Thank you. It is easy to make and should impress your friends. Let me know how it goes.

  3. I found that at 160 Celsius, the creme brulees were done in half the time. As for the Chai tea, to begin with I was putting the actual brewed liquid into the mixture, then realised that's not going to be strong enough to infuse it. So I tore the teabags open and poured in the tea. I also found, that I much preferred the creme brulees warm as opposed to the next day out of the refrigerator. But, then again the flavour is much more intense after it's been chilled. And finally, the caramelisation of the top of the brulees is a must as it just isn't the same. After much hassle with trying to find a kitchen blow torch, I wasn't able to use it in the end, but I know they would have been a lot more appetising with 'golden jewels' on top rather than the brown sweaty stodgy look it has when it comes out after having been chilled.

    Thanks again for sharing this gem of a recipe, I shall definitely do this one again with some minor adjustments.

  4. Hi Ah Khum,

    Thank you for trying this recipe and providing feedback. Your experience is typical of mine. Recipes are a good starting point but there are always changes that make them yours.

    A couple of points:

    Tea bags tend to have filler additives that make them weaker than loose leaf tea. I am lucky to have a tea shop near me where I can buy loose leaf tea.

    Depending upon where you live, finding a kitchen blowtorch may be hard to find. Improvisation is always possible. I have a friend who used a blowtorch that he had bought for soldering metal. Just be extremely careful if you do this. It burns much hotter than a kitchen blowtorch and tends to have a bigger flame. Also make sure it is a propane blowtorch.