Pawpaw Crème Brûlée

Pawpaw Crème Brûlée
Many experienced cooks seem to be intimidated by the thought of making crème brûlée. That’s a real pity, because a great crème brûlée is not really that hard to make. It’s not that often that we get to have this much fun in the kitchen. I mean, you get to cook with a blow torch. Who can’t like that?

4 whole eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
3 cups whole milk
1 cup pawpaw puree
1/2 cup raw sugar
pinch of salt
7 or 8 Tbsp Bourbon Smoked Sugar (regular raw or white sugar will work too)




Select 4 or 5 fully ripened pawpaws. Ripe pawpaws will be very dark, almost black and very soft to the touch. Halve them and scoop out the soft, custardy flesh with a spoon, discarding the skin and seeds (unless you’re saving them to plant later, but that’s another story). Put the pawpaw pulp into a small food processor or blender and puree until smooth. You should have about 1 cup.


Combine the pawpaw puree with all of the other ingredients and whisk or blend well until all ingredients are completely incorporated. Set aside for a moment.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Position the rack in the center of the oven. Prepare a large baking pan with sides that are at least 3 inches high. Put 7 or 8 custard cups or ramekins in the baking pan and fill them almost to the brim with the pawpaw custard mixture. If you don’t have custard cups, you can use a single smaller shallow baking dish, filling it about 2 inches deep.


This is the tricky part: carefully slide the baking pan with the filled custard cups into the preheated oven.


Fill the baking pan with very hot water until it’s about halfway up the sides of the custard cups. Bake for 40 minutes or until the very center of each custard is still slightly loose and liquidy, but the edges are set. Very carefully remove the baking pan from the oven, taking care that the water does not slosh over into the custard. Don’t worry that the custards are underdone – the internal heat of the custard and the water will cook them the rest of the way. Remember, no one likes an overcooked, rubber custard. Well, almost no one.


When the custards have cooled sufficiently to handle, remove them from the baking pan, wipe the bottoms and sides, and set them on a baking rack to cool completely.


Now comes the fun part! Working one custard at a time, carefully spoon about a tablespoon of sugar on the top surface, spreading it in an even layer all the way out to the edges. Regular white or raw sugar will work, as will brown sugar which has been laid out on wax paper to dry out, but for this special recipe, I used a very cool Bourbon Smoked Sugar from Bourbon Barrel Foods of Louisville, Kentucky. This raw sugar is smoked over oak staves from barrels that were used to age bourbon. The smoky aroma is powerful, but the flavor is surprisingly mellow and delicate. The smokiness of this incredible sugar added an extra-special touch to the exotic flavor of the pawpaw custard. Highly recommended!


Now, take your trusty blow torch, either the common garden variety handyman’s propane blowtorch (every chef & cook should have one in the kitchen) or the smaller butane-powered torches that have become common in recent years. Either one will work, but the small torch is a little easier to handle and control. Once the torch is lit and burning steadily, carefully play the flame over the sugar, taking care not to linger too long in one place. The sugar will quickly begin to bubble and melt. It’s OK if it gets a little dark here and there – that adds a nice “burnt sugar” flavor, but try to avoid burning or scorching the sugar too much. You’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. It doesn’t matter if you mess up a little. Remember, in cooking, we can always eat our mistakes!


Once the sugar has been nicely melted, set the custard (now a Crème Brûlée!) aside, and move on to the next one. Only glaze the number of custards you plan on serving within the next hour or two. If you make them too far in advance, the crisp sugar-glazed surface will soften and melt.


At last, the moment of truth. There is nothing quite like breaking through the crackly sugar surface of a crème brûlée and plunging your spoon into the meltingly soft custard that lies beneath. Enjoy.



Products suggested for this recipe:

Earthy Delights

2871 Jolly Road

Okemos MI 48864

tel 855.328.8732

fax 517.253.7366

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