Of Crème Brûlée and Cognac
serves: 4 people
Is there a more amazing combination? I am have had a hard time finding one. I have become really interested in cognac of late. I have been doing a lot of reading and tasting different types. One of my favorite things in the world is when my dad comes over for an evening of cognac and philosophical conversations.
Nico loves Crème Brûlée, and I love baking him delicious things! I had a lot of half and half to use up this week and figured I would make a batch for us to share. Crème Brûlée is such an easy recipe you can make it by simply mixing vanilla, eggs, and cream. Recently, I decided to kick my recipe up a notch by adding vanilla beans instead of extract. OMG! It. Was. Amazing! Totally worth using a vanilla bean, and you can make vanilla extract out of once used beans by submerging them in vodka for a month or so!
The richness of the vanilla bean pairs so wonderfully with cognacs of all ages. I highly recommend a Crème Brûlée to pair with a cognac.
The first cognac that I fell in love with was Paul Giraud’s VSOP, which Nico picked up for our French Dinner party a year or so ago. It started an obsession. Once the bottle was empty, I had to seek to find this cognac, and finally found a shop that would special order it for me.
But that wasn’t enough! Paul Giraud’s VSOP is aged for 8 years…what would their XO taste like? For my 30th birthday, I treated myself with a bottle of Paul Giraud’s 25 year old XO cognac. Tasting it was a beautiful experience, like meeting an old friend after 15 years and seeing how much they matured over the time.
This past week, I was speaking at the Art Schools Network Conference in Minneapolis and had the opportunity to walk around Mall of America, the largest mall I have ever seen. A friend and I randomly walked into VomFASS, a distributor of fine oils, vinegars, and spirits right when they were having a class on wine. We decided to join in. For an hour Tyler and the VomFASS staff taught us about organic and sustainable wine growing and treated us to at least 6 different types of wine and a variety of snacks. It was a wonderful experience. Sitting in their show room, I spotted their cognacs and asked Tamra, the owner, about their oldest batch. She let me taste their Grand Cru Cuvée Paradis, a 50 year old Cognac. It was a revelation! I bought a 100mL bottle to share with Nico back home.
We lined up our 3 cognacs and tasted each with the Crème Brûlées. Each one was a beautiful encounter in its own right, but wow did the Cuvée Paradis impress us. We drank a little bit and will be saving the rest for an amazing occasion like the celebration of our Domestic Union in December!
VomFASS was a really impressive shop and they have their products available online, or at even better prices in store. Contact Tamra Kramer, the owner of vomFASS Twin Cities at 952.426.3222. Ask for the cognac Cuvée Paradis, you will not be disappointed!
And don’t forget to serve it with my Crème Brûlée recipe below!
- 2 cups half and half (or heavy cream)
- 1/2 vanilla bean, or 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 5 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for the crust
- Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out as many seeds as possible. Combine seeds, bean, salt, and cream together in a small pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 15-20 minutes. If you are using vanilla extract, follow the same instructions, but you do not need to steep.
- Whip egg yolks with sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add 1/4 of the cream mixture to the eggs, whip to combine, add the remaining vanilla cream.
- Pour into four dishes and carefully place those dishes onto a high sided cookie sheet.
- Pour cool water halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes until the centers are set.
- Remove from water bath, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 2 hours to fully set.
- Add about 1 tablespoon sugar evenly to the surface of each custard and brûlée with a butane torch. If you do not have one, you can broil for a few minutes, but check on it regularly to make sure you don’t burn too much.