Crème Brûlée, The Cookie Way

My very close family friends, Judy and her daughters, Alicia and Katie, are huge supporters of my baking and the blog.  I actually spent a great deal of my adolescence playing ‘bakery’ (amongst other games) in their kitchen with Alicia and Katie when I would babysit.  One of our most memorable dessert-making experiences was the time we attempted Paula Dean’s “Chocolate Crème Brûlée.”  After watching Paula prepare the dish for a live audience on TV, Alicia insisted that we give it a try, quoting Paula throughout the entire process and reminding me that “we can do this!” and “not to fear the brûlée!”

When the recipe called for a touch of coffee liqueur, Alicia excitedly pulled out an unopened bottle of Tia Maria and handed it to me.  I told the girls that we could just skip to the next ingredient on the list, as I didn’t feel right using the liqueur, both because it was unopened and because I’m pretty sure the girls were both under the age of twelve at the time.  Alicia assured me that we were not only allowed to use the liqueur, but that we NEEDED to in order to make Paula proud.  Torn, I told the girls that if they called Judy and got her permission to open the bottle and use some for our brûlée, that that was the only way I’d allow it.  Alicia, being the older sister, strategically handed the phone over to little Katie who dialed her mother and proudly asked, “Mom, is it okay if we open the big bottle of liqueur from the pantry?”  Shaking my head, I was certain that I’d never be allowed to bake with the girls again.  Judy, dumbfounded I’m sure, backtracked and asked Katie why she wanted to open the bottle of liquor, to which Katie replied in a huff, “Not liquor, Mom.  Liqueur.”

Eventually, the confusion was cleared up and Judy was happy to grant us access to anything we needed for the recipe, resulting in some beautiful and delicious ramekins of chocolate crème brûlée and a silly story to be told and retold at every family gathering since.  In order to give Judy and the girls a big ‘thank you’ for the many lovely gifts for the kitchen that they’ve showered me with since Pumpercake’s debut, I wanted to pay tribute to our favorite story and send them something inspired by the yummy brûlée we made that day.  I decided on some sweet little brûlée-esque  cookies, complete with a dash of homemade coffee liqueur.  The vanilla bean cookies are ultra-rich and buttery, just as you might expect, and are finished with a dusting of sugar and a light brush of the kitchen torch (also a beloved gift from Judy and the girls a few years back).  Making them brought me right back to baking with my two favorite little girls…who, by chance, aren’t very little anymore.

Crème Brûlée Cookies

Inspired by: Crème Brûlée

Adapted from Abigail Johnson Dodge‘s “Burnt-Sugar Vanilla Butter Cookies,” Fine Cooking

½ pound unsalted butter              2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks

1 ¾ cups granulated sugar           3 cups all purpose flour

4 teaspoons vanilla bean paste    1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons coffee liqueur         2 teaspoons baking powder

-recipe yield: about 2 ½ dozen cookies

In a large bowl, beat butter until smooth.  Add in 1 ¼ cups of the sugar and cream together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Beat in vanilla bean paste and coffee liqueur until well-incorporated.  Add in eggs and yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Sift in the flour, salt and baking powder.  Gently mix on a low speed until just blended.

Refrigerate dough for about 10 minutes, just chilling it enough to slightly firm the dough.  Divide chilled dough into two equal parts.  Roll each half into a log and wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil.  Freeze the two logs overnight (or longer).

When ready to bake cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Remove the logs from the freezer and peel away foil and plastic wrap layers.  Slice logs into disks about ¼ inch thick and drop each disk into a dish containing the remaining ½ cup sugar.  Place the disks, sugar-side up, onto sheet trays lined with parchment paper.  Leave at least 3 inches of space between disks on tray, as they will spread quite a bit while baking.  Bake cookies for 11-14 minutes.  Place trays onto cooling racks for 7-10 minutes to cool, then transfer cookies directly on racks.

Once cookies have cooled, dip the sugared side of each cookie, once again, in the remaining sugar.  Using a kitchen torch, melt the thin layer of sugar on the cookies.  Allow the hardened sugar on the torched cookies to cool before serving or storing.  Store cookies in between layers of parchment paper (the sugar will stick to other cookies without paper) in stacks in airtight containers.

Coffee Liqueur

¼ cup granulated sugar           ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup water                             ¼ cup vodka

2 ¼ teaspoons instant espresso powder

-recipe yield: about ½ cup

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water over medium heat and bring to a boil.   Reduce heat and allow liquid to simmer for 5-10 minutes, until sugar has dissolved and formed a syrup.  Remove from heat and stir in espresso powder.  Set aside and allow to cool slightly.  Stir in vanilla and vodka.   Cover and store in a cool place.


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