Masala Chai Crème Brûlée

This masala chai crème brûlée takes your favorite Indian tea and turns it sideways, making it a creamy spice-infused dessert with a crackling, shattering caramelized sugar topping. Cooks, start your blow torches!

Three ramekins filled with masala chai creme brûlée, one with it's top cracked open to reveal the creamy inside

Sugar and spice and everything nice. That’s what you’ll find in these Masala chai crème brûlée that seem sophisticated but are actually a simple infusion of warming spices and a velvety custard. The rich creaminess juxtaposed against the crackle of the caramelized sugar gilding the surface pretty much guarantees you’ll be coming up with excuses to make this make-ahead dessert again. Soon.–Jenny Howard

Special Equipment: Ramekins; kitchen blow-torch (optional)

Masala Chai Crème Brûlée

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 4 H
  • Serves 4 to 6
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Ingredients

  • 3 cloves
  • 5 cardamom pods, seeds removed
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 Indian masala chai tea bags or 2 teaspoons loose chai tea
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup plus 5 tablespoons superfine sugar, or just blitz granulated sugar in a blender until finely ground but not powdery
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  • 1. Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).
  • 2. In a spice or coffee grinder or using a mortar and pestle, combine the cloves, cardamom seeds, and cinnamon and grind to a fine powder.
  • 3. In a large pot set over medium heat, combine the cream, milk, tea bags, ginger, and spices and stir to mix well. Bring almost to a boil and then reduce the heat and gently simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for 10 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine-meshed strainer or cheesecloth into a large measuring cup.
  • 4. In a large bowl, whisk 1/2 cup sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, very slowly pour the strained cream into the egg mixture.
  • 5. Place 4 to 6 ramekins in a shallow roasting pan. Divide the custard mixture evenly among the ramekins. Pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the custard is just set with a slight wobble in the center of each, 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the dish.
  • 6. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate the custards at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
  • 7. When ready to serve, evenly sprinkle the remaining 5 tablespoons sugar over the custards so it covers the surface. Carefully caramelize with a kitchen blowtorch or, if using ovenproof dishes, adjust the oven rack 4 inches (10 cm) beneath the broiler and preheat the broiler. Blowtorch or broil until the sugar is evenly browned and melted into glass. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 hours.

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Recipe Testers Reviews

What is the proper consistency of créme brûlée? The question quickly went out the window once we tasted this French classic with an Indian twist. It was soft like pudding, not exactly the slightly more solid créme brûlée we’re used to and had expected. But we simply didn’t care. That would have ruined the enjoyment of the creamy spiced goodness underneath the shattered caramel. I think we finished it in less than a minute—with such ephemeral deliciousness, every nano second counts.

In order to serve this on a weeknight when time is typically tight, I baked it 2 days in advance, kept it chilled in the fridge, and then we each torched our own créme brûlée just before serving. The internal temperature of the créme brûlée was at 173°F after 30 minutes of baking, which was perfect as custard should reach 170°F-175°F to be fully cooked.

Crème brûlée is one of my favorite desserts but the addition of masala chai gives it an extra touch of amazing flavor. The masala chai crème brûlée is simple and comes together quickly. I love a really spicy chai so I used the "double spice" tea bags that I buy for my tea; it has a nice bite to it that cuts through the richness of the heavy cream.

I put all the spices through my coffee grinder and then used it to make the superfine sugar. I didn't clean out the grinder before adding granulated sugar to blitz it so the crunchy sugar top had a little bit of chai taste to it as well.

I did find that my 4 ramekins took longer than 30 minutes to cook but I suspect that my oven rack was too high; I erred on the side of caution as I wasn't taking any chances burning these. All in all, this recipe is easy and delicious with a nice change of flavor. I will definitely make these again.

I'm going to be honest. I've always been daunted by custards and have never attempted to make one myself. However, this recipe for masala chai crème brûlée was surprisingly straightforward and I didn't mess up once!

When combining the spice mixture, I added the ginger in with the other spices, ground them all up in my spice mill, and dumped them into the cream mixture. If you're like me and have a finicky old spice grinder, don't worry. Any larger pieces will be strained out later.

I cooked the custard for 30 minutes. It was a creamier consistency than the crème brulee I've previously had, so in the future I may add 5 minutes to the cooking time. The sugar was enough to develop a nice, thick, crunchy surface, much unlike the flimsy ones I usually encounter in restaurants. This resulted in a most satisfying experience when thwacking through the caramel with a spoon and a delectable crunch when eating the brulee.

I purchased shortbread to go with this, but the box went completely unnoticed as my guests gathered around, oohing and aahing, grabbing spoons and digging in. Incidentally, this recipe tastes “like fall," to quote a friend, and I fully intend to prepare it again the evening before my annual Thanksgiving lunch.

Quick, delicious, spicy creme brûlée. Easy to put together, excellent flavors, and can be made ahead! Win, win, win!

This masala chai crème brûlée is simply delicious. The chai flavor and additional spices are amazing. My younger sons might find it a bit too spicy, but I think it’s perfect and an amazing addition to crème brulee. I would make this dessert to impress friends at a dinner party. Sugar and spice and everything nice.

The creamy, smooth texture of the creme brûlée blends perfectly with the intensity of the Masala chai's spices. This is one of my favorite desserts with just the vanilla flavor, and no doubt the spice set of this recipe makes it an even richer dessert.

To obtain the correct texture, and to not curdle, carefully follow the instructions, mixing the ingredients well and baking at the indicated temperature. The optimum texture is obtained after being chilled, preferably refrigerated overnight and then preparing the caramelized sugar at the last moment.

I prepared the recipe as it is and found the flavor a little too intense, so I tested it again with Earl Grey tea instead of Chai tea. I also used 3 g grated fresh ginger instead of ground ginger and the result was a much more balanced flavor.

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