Chocolate Creme Brulee Tart & Dealing With Kitchen Failures

It’s hard to be a home cook. Blindly navigating a world that seems to come so effortlessly to others. Comparing our kitchen failures with the extravagant successes we see other producing. Left to wonder why we can’t make a perfect soufflé even when we follow the directions with surgical exactness. 

And those of us who reached adulthood with little more skill than it takes to boil water are thrown into the same world with those girls who learned how to make perfect ears of orecchiette pasta by the twirl of their Italian Grandmothers thumbs. Those of us whose childhood culinary training didn’t extend much past reheating and defrosting. 

So when you sit there, tears in your eyes as your hard work has turned to a delated over-salted mess, I want you to remember a few things:

1. No one will post their failures on their blogs. Or post pictures of them on their Facebook page. When you compare your failures with everyones success, its not fair to you. 

2. Everyone fails. Ask anyone who has ever cooked and they will tell you culinary tails of epic failures. Horrible, inedible food that we will never speak of in the light of day. Sometimes we figure out why we created such a disaster, sometimes it remains a mystery. 

3. Great cooks don’t give up. Sure, they fail. A lot. But they don’t give up. Focus more on your success than your failures and just keep going. 

4. Make a list of the recipes that you want to tackle. Make it as huge and as grandiose as you want, you have your entire life to master them. No matter how often you make them, and what the end result is, vow to learn something from each batch. 

5. Remove emotion.  In order to figure out how it is that you have ended up with such a kitchen failure on your hands, you have to be able to look at it objectivly. It is hard not get emotional when you feel like you failed, but that isn’t going to teach you anything. Did you really follow the steps exactly, or are you just saying that to make yourself feel better? Did you use the ingredients that were listed or did you use a substitute thinking it would be ok? If you can use each recipe as a learning tool, it wasn’t a waste. Sometimes it’s the recipes fault, sometimes it’s the ingredients fault, and yes, sometimes it is your fault. But it’s all part of the learning process. We have all tried to change a recipe thinking it would be fine, and sometimes it isn’t. Now you know. 

The first recipe on my list of recipes to master was Creme Brulee. It sounded so fancy and grown up, I wanted to learn to make something that was elegant and French and I was shocked at how easy it was. You do need a few kitchen tools, but the recipe and the steps are simple. And the result is incredible. For this recipe, I added a chocolate tart crust and a cocoa powder laced brulee topping. 

And a kitchen tip from one of my kitchen failures: Don’t touch the melted sugar before it’s cooled, it will give you the worst mother Eff-ing burn of your life. 

Dark Chocolate Crème Brulee Tart

Tart Crust:

1 cup of all-purpose flour

1/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

10 tbs of unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

3-5 tbs ice cold water

Custard:

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup of sugar

1 3/4 cup of heavy cream

1 3oz bar of 70% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate, broken into small pieces

1 tsp espresso powder

1/2 tsp salt

Brulee Sugar Topping:

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

In a food processor, combine the 1/2 cup flour, sugars, cocoa powder and salt. Pulse to combine. Add the cubes of butter and process until combined, about 1-2 minutes. Add the remaining flour and process again. Your dough should resemble course meal. Move to a large bowl and add 3 tbs of the water, knead to combine (if you add the water to the dough with the food processor, your crust will turn into a cracker). Add the additional water if your dough is too dry.

Form into a disk, wrap completely with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour (you can also make the crust a day ahead and allow to chill overnight).  

Heat your oven to 375.

Once your tart is all chilled, remove from the fridge and roll out to an even thickness, making sure your dough is just large enough to completely cover the interior surface of the tart pan.

Add to a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom (that has been sprayed with butter flavored cooking spray), pressing into shape and removing any excess dough. If the dough is too fragile to transfer in one sheet, it is ok to press it into shape in pieces in the pan.  Prick the bottom of the tart with a fork several times.

Place a sheet of parchment paper inside your tart and fill with pie weights. If you don’t have pie weights, you can use dried beans. 

Bake for 20 minutes, reduce the oven temp to 300.

In a bowl, combine the yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar and whisk until light and frothy. In a pot over medium heat, combine the cream, salt, espresso powder and chocolate, stir continuously until chocolate has melted, reducing heat to avoid boiling if necessary. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperate for about 15 minutes (if you add the cream/chocolate mixture to your egg mixture when it is hot, you will end up with scrambled eggs. Allow to cool to avoid that).

While whisking the egg mixture, slowly add the cream until completely combined. Strain with a fine mesh strainer.

Place tart pan on a baking sheet and set in the oven, then add the custard to tart shell. Bake at 300 degrees until the edges are set and the middle is still wobbly (it will continue to set as it cools) about 35-40 minutes. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and keep cold until ready to serve.

In a small bowl, add ¼ cup of sugar and 1 tsp cocoa powder, stir to combine. Add to the top of the tart in an even layer. Run a culinary torch over the top of the sugar, slowly and evenly, until it has all melted and is mostly dark. Due to the addition of the cocoa powder, this brulee topping is more likely to catch fire. Make sure to extinguish any fires instantly. You can also brulee with plain granulated sugar, leaving out the cocoa powder, if it makes you nervous!  Serve immediately. Once the sugar has been bruleed, it will start to liquify after about an hour. 

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31 Responses to Chocolate Creme Brulee Tart & Dealing With Kitchen Failures

  1. cassie April 2, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    I’ve been failing like crazy lately and I know why – I’m always in too big of a hurry and I mess up like it’s going out of style. I keep telling myself to slow down. I will definitely slow down while I enjoy some of this creme brulee tart, brilliant to add chocolate, Jackie!

    • Jackie April 2, 2012 at 11:35 am #

      I can’t even imagine a failure coming out of your kitchen! Just a true testament to the fact that it happens to the best of us :) Also, you’re in a new kitchen and for me, It seems to take a few months of adapting to get the groove down.

  2. Tina@flourtrader April 2, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    No doubt you have mastered this dessert! Delicious as well as stunning. Yes we all have screw ups in the kitchen, which can make for a very long day if you want to hit the success mark. I do agree with your points here though, sometimes I think some people post their failures hoping for a comment that resolves whatever they did wrong. That is impossible, at most you can get statements that begin with “perhaps” or “maybe”. Since they did not see your execution, how could they have the exact answer. Great post!

  3. Tara April 2, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    This looks delicious. I was trying to find a chocolate dessert to make for Easter and this definitely fits the bill. I have some annoying (amateur) questions…but don’t feel obligated to answer b/c I know how annoying it can be for people to ask on how to modify recipes,etc… I’ll muddle through regardless… But 1 – Just have a mini food processor. Would using a stand mixer w/ a paddle work? Hand mixer? Or just the old fashioned pastry blender? 2 – How imperative is it that the tart pan have a removeable bottom? I just have a pretty one, not a functional one…

    • Jackie April 2, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

      Not annoying at all! Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions, its much easier that trying to figure it all out through trial and error.
      The food processor helps to cut the flour and butter in as quick as possible. If flour is over-worked, it gets tough so I use a food processor to get it done quick. I used a mini-prep food processor to make this crust (I have 2 food processors) and it worked fine. As long as it holds 3 cups, you should be OK to use that. I’ve never used a stand mixer to make pie/tart crust,but I hear it can be done.
      I always use the tart pan with a removable bottom because its easier to get the tart out and it looks pretty. But I had a friend make my Apricot Mango Creme Brulee Tart (similar crust) in a pie pan and she said it turned out great. Just make sure and spray it really well and maybe flour it too or it will be hard to get out of the pan.

  4. RavieNomNoms April 2, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    Oh that looks just lovely! So decadent and rich!

    I think the failures are what makes us better cooks to be quite honest! I hate messing up but it teaches me for the next time for sure.

  5. Mama's Gotta Bake April 2, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    I feel so much better after reading your post. I had three baking failures in a row, but like the post above mine states, you learn from your mistakes, so you don’t do it the next time. My mistakes however end up costing me a lot of money! (for chocolate)

    • Jackie April 2, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

      For me, I feel like Kitchen Failures travel in threes! I always seem to have three in quick succession, but maybe I’ll go weeks with none. Weird how that works.

  6. chinmayie @ love food eat April 3, 2012 at 5:32 am #

    I completely understand what you mean… Kitchen failures are really hard to handle. For me what is also hard to handle is when I make something that i really love and nobody else even tastes it :(
    U know what… I am thinking I should start posting my failure photos. I think that’s what makes it fair.

    Your creme-brulee tart looks fabulous. Now that i something i never venture into. I hardly try any recipe that requires me to follow directions. I am too lazy like that.

  7. Anita at Hungry Couple April 3, 2012 at 7:56 am #

    Of course we have failures but, personally, I’ve never let it discourage me. A few years ago I had an epic fail of a dessert I was supposed to bring to the mom-in-law that night! I actually did post about it, along with photos of the flop. Then I did a follow up post when I finally got the recipe right. It’s all part of what makes my blog mine and part of my life. All that said, I’ll have some of that creme brulee tart, please. :)

    • Jackie April 3, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

      Good for you! I’m sure it helped a lot of people too see the “dark side” of food blogging :)

  8. tabata April 3, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    I like your fantastic outllook.
    best regards

  9. Bree April 3, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    So true! I always look at everyones posts thinking, “Wow don’t you have the gran disasters that I have in my kitchen?!” So thanks for making me not feel so alone ;)

  10. Becca @ Amuse Your Bouche April 3, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    This looks stunning! I love the idea or bruleeing (is that a word?) a tart! Pinning this so I can make it in the future :)

    http://www.amuse-your-bouche.blogspot.com

  11. amy @ fearless homemaker April 3, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    this looks absolutely delicious! + you are so right about kitchen failures. when i first started blogging, i thought i would post about failures along with the successes, but you’re right – i rarely do. no one else seems to mention them, so i always feel silly doing so. it always makes me feel better to know i’m not alone in not always being perfect!

  12. Lynn @ I'll Have What She's Having April 3, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

    I’ve had plenty of epic kitchen failures. I used to get upset by them, but now I see them more as challenges; I have to find a way to make the recipe work.
    This tart looks really good, I’m adding it to my to do list!

  13. myfudo April 3, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    I felt great reading your post. I dont feel so alone, now. I am trying this recipe too… Thanks much!

  14. Sara April 4, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    I’m a new kitchen! Thanks for giving me permission to take THIS more seriously ( new kitchen has a HOT burner on the stove that has made me adjust my timing and moves and multitasking which has led to a few mishaps)

    I feel encouraged!

  15. claire @ the realistic nutritionist April 5, 2012 at 10:22 am #

    Jackie, this is STUNNING. And I love this post too. I have a really hard time dealing with kitchen failures (I view it as a failure for ME, not for food) and it’s hard. But, I like to think we all have them (even the big shots) and it’s a part of the growing experience. You’re not a real chef until you’ve fucked up creme bruelee and burnt the sauce.

    • Jackie April 5, 2012 at 11:04 am #

      I’m the same way! I always blame myself. And sometimes I even cry. My poor husband, seriously. It’s always so great for me to see the failures of others because it makes me feel more human.

  16. Petra Nima April 6, 2012 at 2:43 am #

    That might be these sort of community service to let peole know that you have failed in the kitchen. it helps people to know that even when you put up pictures of food that looks so perfect that you also produce food that is bad too. thank you.

  17. Liz April 6, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    Oh, yeah…I’ve had a ton of flops! Usually I misread the recipe or was in a hurry. This creme brulee tart is no failure, though…it’s exquisite!!!

  18. Colleen Bierstine April 9, 2012 at 7:13 am #

    Those are definitely good things to keep in mind in the face of failure. Unfortunately, I tend to forget that sometimes. This tart is making my mouth water, and it’s only 10am. I LOVE creme brulee, so making it chocolate and adding a nice little crust only makes it that much better!

  19. Tiffany@comowater.com April 9, 2012 at 7:56 am #

    Awesome post!… But, I must admit… I post my failures! I try to show the good, the bad, and the ugly… you can learn from folks ‘failures’ so when things do not go as planned in the kitchen, I blog about that too! :D

    • Jackie April 9, 2012 at 9:34 am #

      Good for you! That’s why people love you so much :)

  20. lynn April 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    What a fun post, from start to finish. I actually DO publish my cooking failures on my blog (under the label “flops” on the sidebar ;) ) because not everything always turns out. And there is so much good knowledge out there from other bloggers, I love to get THEIR recipes for success. Great post.

  21. BigFatBaker April 13, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

    Oh my gosh…I have definitely had my share of failures. And I anticipate many more to come. It is the nature of the business! I am with Cassie, I always seem to be in a rush and need to learn to SLOW DOWN and read the whole recipe first.
    This chocolate tart looks fabulous! The brûléed top was such a good idea. I’ve touched the sugar too…I will never do it again lol.

  22. Anneddisy April 29, 2012 at 4:45 am #

    Honourable bye, considerate soul mate :)

  23. Oana October 10, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

    I’m sorry, I’m European and I don’t know how much 1 3 oz bar of 70% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate means? I searched on internet and i found it would be like aprox. 370 grams. Is that correct?

    • Jackie October 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

      It’s actually about 85. I know, so confusing. In the US, ounces refers to both a measure of weight as well as volume, which are dramatically different depending on what you are measuring. But with chocolate 3 oz is about 85 grams.

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