Café Créma Bruciato

Our son, Shawn, and his wife visited recently. They live in Dallas, TX. He moved there in 2007 to go to school. Shawn loves my cooking in general, but he always has one request when he visits: café créma bruciato.

For years Shawn’s favorite dessert was tiramisu, so I’d make that whenever he came up. I had found a great recipe in Cook’s Illustrated. For those who don’t know what tiramisu is, it’s a creamy custard dessert flavored with coffee and rum. The custard is layered with ladyfingers that have been quickly dipped in a mixture of coffee and rum. It’s rich and decadent.

One year I couldn’t find the ladyfingers I usually used. It clearly wasn’t as good as my usual. Ours is a family that discusses food in detail. We dissect recipes, new and old, so we can make them better. While we were discussing the tiramisu, Shawn said that what he really likes is the custard. He could do without the ladyfingers altogether.

That started quite the discussion. You see, the coffee flavor all comes from the ladyfingers. They aren’t in the coffee-rum mixture long, but they soak up a lot of coffee flavor. No problem. I could add a bit of espresso to the custard. Then Shawn suggested that we could add sugar to the top and burn it like they do with crème brûlée.

Well, that sounded delicious. So, I gave it a try. Shawn now had a new favorite dessert. He suggested we call the new dessert tiramisu brûlée. There was one problem with that. I’m a word nerd. Tiramisu is an Italian world. Brûlée is a French word. They don’t go together. Crème brûlée translates to burnt cream. I looked up the Italian word for burnt. It’s bruciato. What we had created was burnt coffee cream. In Italian, that’s café créma bruciato.

It’s pretty easy to make. The important thing is not to make any substitutions. I sometimes get asked if mascarpone and cream cheese are the same thing. Mascarpone is sometimes called Italian cream cheese. While they are similar in texture, they are not the same. You can sometimes find mascarpone in the specialty cheese section of the grocery store.

Demerara sugar, aka raw sugar, can be found in the baking aisle with the other specialty sugars. Espresso powder can usually be found with the instant coffee.

Ramekins are small serving bowls. They’re usually round with straight, scalloped sides. You can use small bowls if you don’t have ramekins. This recipe makes eight servings, depending on the size of your ramekins. You can use one large dish for serving this, but it’s much better when served in individual dishes.

I’ve included the recipe below. If you make it, I’d love to hear what you think.

May your week ahead be filled with sunshine.

Café Créma Bruciato

6 large egg yolks
⅔ c sugar
¼ t salt
1½ pounds mascarpone (24 oz)
¼ c warm water
1½ t espresso powder
4 T dark rum
¾ c cold heavy cream
Demerara (raw) sugar

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat yolks on low just until combined. Add sugar and salt, beating on medium-high until pale yellow (about 2 minutes), scraping down the sides once or twice.

Dissolve espresso powder in the warm water. Add rum and espresso to the egg mixture. Beat about 1 minute, until combined. Little by little, add mascarpone and beat a medium speed until there are no more lumps (about 40 seconds), scraping down the sides once or twice.

Transfer this mixture to a large bowl. There will be no need to clean the mixer bowl yet.

In the mixer bowl, beat the cream on medium until frothy (about 1½ minutes). Increase speed to high and continue to beat until cream holds stiff peaks (another 1½ minutes). Using a scraper, fold about ⅓ of the cream into the mascarpone mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remaining cream until no white streaks remain.

Spoon mixture into individual ramekins or serving dishes. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Sprinkle the top with Demerara sugar. Heat the sugar with a culinary torch until melted and bubbling. Serve immediately.

You may do everything up to adding the sugar a day or two ahead of time.

Before I had a culinary torch, I used a propane torch to burn my sugar. You can also use a long candle lighter.


Rae Bates is an Independent Consultant with the Pampered Chef. You can see her Facebook Page by clicking HERE. Her column appears each Sunday in Peru Indiana Today.