Welcome to my first Christmas recipe of the season! I dreamed of making a crème brûlée spiced with all the best gingerbread flavors. This recipe has a spicy, creamy custard base, a hardened caramelized sugar topping for the quintessential crunch, and the cutest gingerbread man stenciled on top to give a nod to the flavors inside. I hope this recipe makes an appearance at your Christmas dinner!
Why you will love this
- Gingerbread spices– Need I say more?! The spices steep in the milk as it is warming up on the stovetop. This alone will make your house smell cozy!
- A secret ingredient– I added lemon zest to this recipe and it holds up well to all the spices. You can’t obviously taste lemon, it is just there to offer that je ne sais quoi! If you need further convincing, check out the reviews on this recipe. If fact, I think you could even play with increasing the lemon to 1 teaspoon if you really like it!
- You can make it in advance– Oh the holidays, the busiest time of the year! You can keep the baked, unsugared custards in the fridge for up to 3 days. Just torch the sugar right before serving. Otherwise, the top layer will get soft in the fridge and you will loose the crunchy factor.
- You get to use a kitchen torch!
- Ground spices– I used all ground spices in this recipe. Just make sure you use fresh ground black pepper, it makes a difference! I saw some recipes that used whole spices while steeping in the milk but then you remove them before baking. I wanted the spices to really impart flavor.
- Lemon– As mentioned above, the secret ingredient! You can increase to 1 teaspoon if you love the flavor.
- Egg yolks– Take your eggs out a few hours before you plan on baking. The egg yolks should be at room temperature by the time you use them.
- Vanilla extract– Normally I use vanilla bean paste in baked goods but I think vanilla extract is a cleaner taste and doesn’t compete with the other spices.
Stenciling the gingerbread men
How cute is this little man?! Here are the steps:
- Finish caramelizing the sugar and let it cool for a minute.
- Place the stencil in the middle of the ramekin.
- Use a sifter to lightly dust powdered sugar over the surface area.
- Use tweezers to carefully remove the stencil.
I created a template with 6 gingerbread men. Each man is about 2 inches wide. This was the perfect size for the 4 oz ramekins. When you have 6 stencils, you don’t have to worry about reusing it and potentially spilling powdered sugar in the wrong places. Click here to download my template.
Thank you, Tasty, for the design inspiration!
Gingerbread Crème Brûlée
For the custard
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 5 Tablespoons granulated sugar divided between cream and yolks
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- pinch salt
- 1 Tablespoon molasses
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
For the topping
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- powdered sugar for dusting
For the custard:
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Start a kettle of water to prep it for boiling. Place six 4 oz ramekins in a baking pan (around 9X13") and set aside. You will add boiling water to the pan right before the custards go in the oven.
- Add heavy cream, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and all the spices (cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, salt, pepper) to a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk it over the next 6-7 minutes. You are looking for bubble along the edges of the pan. You do NOT want to bring the cream to a full boil.
- Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks, molasses, vanilla, lemon zest, and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk it until well combined.
- After your cream mixture comes to temperature, spoon a ladle of the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture. Make sure you pour it slowly and try to whisk the egg yolks with your other hand at the same time. Whisking is very important to ensure a smooth texture- otherwise you can get clumps of cooked egg! Add another ladleful of cream and continue whisking. Then gradually whisk in the remaining cream mixture.
- Evenly divide the custard mixture between the six ramekins in the baking pan. Add boiling water to the baking pan until the water goes about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Be careful not to add water to the ramekins! Carefully transfer the pan with the ramekins to the oven. Alternatively, you can add the pan with the ramekins to the oven and then pour the water in. This makes transferring slightly less risky!
- Bake for 30-35 minutes. You will know they are done when the custard is just set- a little firmer on the edges and still slightly jiggly in the middle. They firm up after cooling.
- Carefully remove the ramekins from the hot water right after taking them out of the oven. You can use tongs but if you have a canning tool used for lifting the jars, that works super well here 🙂
- Let them cool for about 30 minutes and then transfer them to the refrigerator to cool for at least 4 hours but ideally overnight.
- When ready to serve, sprinkle a spoonful of granulated sugar on the surface area of each ramekin. You can rotate the ramekin around to evenly distribute the sugar. Discard any extra. Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar- move your torch around frequently to ensure an even finish. Repeat with another layer of sugar. The ultimate crack!
- If you are adding an outline of the gingerbread man, please see the notes for a copy of the template. Place the stencil in the middle of the ramekin. Use a sifter to lightly dust powdered sugar over the surface area. Use tweezers to carefully remove the stencil.
- Serve and enjoy. Merry Christmas!