Chocolate Crème Brulee
Note: Chef Beth Hensperger offers two alternative methods for creating caramelized sugar topping for crème brulee. While the torch method is the easiest, you can use the oven broiler. She suggests that you place ice cubes on the baking sheet to help the custards keep their cool while the sugar topping browns.
You also can make a hard, lollipop-like topping, which can then be refrigerated and will last up to 12 hours before it softens. Place a bowl of cold water next to the stove. Combine 2/3 cup vanilla sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small, heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, without stirring. Swirl pan, holding it by the handle. Bring syrup to boil over high heat, cover and boil 2 minutes. Uncover and cook until syrup just darkens to amber. Do not stir. Dip bottom of pan into cold water to stop cooking.
Working quickly, spoon 1 tablespoon syrup over top of 1 cold custard; tilt custard to completely cover with caramel (it will bubble, then become smooth). Repeat with each remaining custard. Serve or refrigerate.