Are you ready for Christmas? Are you relieved that all of the preparing for the Holiday is over so that we can just relax, open presents and eat? Now that we have three kids, I definitely feel as though we are in the thick of it when it comes to Christmas. So much to do. So much excitement (and two of them don’t even really know what Christmas is yet)! Still, the Holidays aren’t just for kids. And being a parent doesn’t mean that you aren’t still all of the things that you were before. This is a time to celebrate health, happiness, family and friendships - all of the things that are important to us.
I’ve been going out to dinner with a group of girlfriends from law school for fourteen years. Yep. FOURTEEN YEARS! How did that happen? Together we’ve celebrated marriages, the birth of more than a few children and several job and career changes. We've also leaned on each other for over a decade's worth of disappointments, losses and bumps in the road. This month we decided to take some time away from our other obligations to celebrate each other by way of our own holiday dinner party. Of course the weather didn’t cooperate the evening of the party and I wasn’t even sure anyone would be able to make it. But almost everyone showed and it felt so good to see each other face-to-face, these girls who I’ve been through so much with. To talk late into the evening about a little bit of everything. To laugh and reminisce over dark chocolate crème brûlée before heading back out into the snow (for them) and upstairs to bed (for me).
I hope you had some time to celebrate your long standing friendships this month. And if you forgot anyone on your gift list I’m currently coveting these, this and this (so cute!). And I think this or this would be perfect for those hard-to-shop-for men in your life.
Dark Chocolate Crème Brûlée
(adapted from David Lebovitz)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole or low-fat milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more for caramelizing
Pinch sea salt or kosher salt
6 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 oz dark chocolate
Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C) if using gratin dishes (or 325ºF (160ºC) if using ramekins or custard cups).
Place 4 individual gratin dishes on a high-rimmed baking sheet.
In a small saucepan whisk the cocoa powder with a little bit of cold milk until fully incorporated.
Place the saucepan over medium heat, warm the cream, milk, sugar, chocolate and salt until the sugar dissolves and chocolate is melted, which shouldn’t take long at all.
In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.
Gradually add the warm cream mixture to the egg yolks in a steady stream, stirring with the whisk until the cream is completely incorporated. Mix in the espresso or coffee powder and strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a large measuring cup. Divide the mixture among the dishes.
Place the pan of custards on the oven rack and pour enough hot water into the pan so that it reaches at least halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake the custards for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are just set; watch them very carefully during the final few minutes of baking. If using ramekins, pour hot water in the pan, cover with foil and bake them a little bit longer 30-35 minutes, until they barely jiggle in the center.
Remove the dishes from the pan and set them on a cooling rack. Let the custards cool to room temperature. Then loosely cover and refrigerate overnight.
Just before serving, sprinkle the top of each crème brûlée with an even layer of sugar. I use just enough to evenly cover the tops, particularly when using gratin dishes as they have a lot of surface area and you don’t want overdo it on the sugar. Using a blowtorch, wave the flame over each custard, 1 at a time, until the sugar melts. Serve immediately.