Category Archives: food

Welcome Spring!

by Cheryl Shaffer, Chef Instructor

Spring has officially arrived on the calendars, and even Mother Nature is trying to give us a sneak peak by reigning in the cold, (at least a little!), and whisking away the ice and darkness of winter. Spring is here. The days are longer, the sun a little brighter, the sky bluer and hopefully, the welcome of Alaskans as we greet each other after a long winter is a friendlier and happy note to your day.

Last week, we explored the joys of deviled eggs to share with our patrons. This week, we’ve made delightful baby animal cookies on a lollipop stick. We started with chicks, then bunnies and ended with ducklings. Credit goes to the website, HowDoesShe.com, for creative ingenuity.

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For the Cheeps: You’ll need a package of round sandwich cookies. We used Golden Oreos, but any type will work. Carefully push a lollipop stick, (the cookie sticks are too thick for this project), then press down on the cookies to secure the stick inside. You’ll want to be gentle, the cookies snap easily, but you can press them back into their cream filling and they worked fine for this project.

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Melt a package of yellow candy melts in a medium sized bowl, in the microwave oven, according to package directions. We found that the initial melting time took about 1.5 minutes, adding bursts of 15 second melt times, to keep the candy at the perfect consistency.   Using a spoon, stir the melts until all of the candy is melted into a nice liquid, and carefully pour the candy over the cookie, until it is completely coated, and allow the excess to drip off. Place the coated cookie onto a sheet of parchment paper. While the coating is still wet, place two candy eyes and half of a Nerd jelly bean candy, cut widthwise, for the beak. Continue with the rest of the cookies. Allow to cookie cool completely. We placed ours on a parchment lined cookie sheet and put them into the freezer for 15 minutes to set the chocolate.  We had a little bit of the yellow candy melt left over. When it was thickened, but not completely hard, we took a small amount and rolled it into a small tube shape, and pressed it against the top of the Cheep’s forehead, like a cockscomb. Once completely cooled, wrap the Cheeps in a cellophane bag and tie it closed with a cheerful ribbon.

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For the Ducklings: Use the same steps as for the Cheeps, but mix ½ bag of yellow melts with ½ bag of marshmallow flavored melts. Coat the cookie lollipops with the mixture, shake off the excess, place the candy eyes and this time, use half an orange Nerd jelly bean, cut lengthwise, for the beak- and we shook yellow sugar sprinkles over the whole cookie. Again, allow them to set on a parchment lined cookie tray. You can speed up the process using the freezer for about 15 minutes, then wrap them in the cellophane wrappers and tie a bow with ribbon.

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For the Bunnies: This time, you’ll use the plain white candy melts to coat the cookie lollipops, shake off the excess and place them on a parchment lined baking tray. You’ll want to place the eyes and the little hard candy bunny head for the nose, while the coating is still wet. Continue until all of your cookies are coated. Now comes the fun. We used a tube of  black gel frosting to draw on the bunny smiles.

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We took sugar wafer cookies, and removed the outer layers of the wafers and actually used the legs/feet of the Gnome cookie cutter that we sell in the store, to shape the bunny ears. Using a pair of tweezers, dip the ears to coat them in white candy, and carefully adhere them to the cookie, just above the eyes. You’ll have to hold each one for a moment, in order for them to stick. Use a little touch-up melt on the end of a toothpick to cover any bare spots from where the tweezers held the ears. You can also add a few whiskers to each side of the nose with a small dip of the coating and a toothpick. When the melt is dry, we used a toothpick to pick-up a little of pink cupcake decorating dust to give the ears a little dimension and color. Allow them to dry completely, then wrap them in cellophane and add a bow tie.

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One Souffle You Won’t Mind Getting in Lime for…

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These adorably tiny souffles pack a punch with just as much tartness as the fruit that gives them their citrus zing! And while serving them in a lime shell means there is just a few tangy bites- that is all it takes to fall in love with this flavor.

To create the cups, Chef Lisa:

1. first cut a small slice from one end of a washed lime to create a base so that the lime will stand up on its own.

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2. Next she cut the top from the other end of the lime, making sure to leave a good portion of the lime skin while creating an opening large enough to remove the flesh from the inside.

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3.Having the right tools on hand makes all the difference in creating the shell.

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4. Using both a tomato shark and a melon baller, she alternated scooping and scraping until the inside of the shell is clean of any fruit or spines.

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5. Once the shell is clear and smooth inside, it is ready to be filled with souffle and baked.

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The baking process does change the bright green hue of the shell, but the limey aroma and sharp flavor of the fluffy filling are not affected in the least.

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If you crave more bites than the shell can offer, they are equally delicious served in ramekins.

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Perfect Pressure Cooker One-Pots

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By Cheryl Shaffer, Chef Instructor

Dear Friends,

Once again we find ourselves in the A&P kitchen on behalf of research, our insatiable thirst for knowledge, and a hungry belly. “Choose your catalyst wisely,” is the common thread throughout life, and I’m sure it’s also one of the driving forces behind creating new recipes and finding new ways to use the contents of our pantry to their best advantage, especially when our time is in short supply.

There have been some thrifty sales on roasts lately, so we stocked-up on a beef chuck roast and a beautiful rolled pork roast. Root vegetables are always a good bet for winter meals because they are readily available and store so well.

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Canned broths or stocks and tasty sauces like the Allen & Petersen Family Pantry Picante Sabroso Apple Spread and Chipotle Apple Raspberry Sauce, as well as basic fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage should always be on hand to make a quick meal delicious.

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I decided to use the Kuhn Rikon 8 qt. pressure cooker and see how quickly I could take the beef chuck roast from a gorgeous hunk of raw meat to a delectable, ‘Not Your Mama’s Yankee Pot Roast’ with the help of some vegetables, stock sauces and herbs and a little creative spark. Time to get to work…

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I started with a 3 pound roast. I placed the pressure cooker pan on the stove, over medium high heat, and added about 1½ tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil was hot, (it should shimmer but not smoke on the surface), I added the roast, which I had salted and peppered on all sides.

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I let the roast brown on all sides, then removed it to a platter to rest while I sautéed two red onions that I’d rough chopped, three celery ribs, cut on the diagonal, 2 cups of baby carrots, four large potatoes, cubed, 4 cloves of minced garlic, 2 jalapeno peppers*, one red bell pepper, roughly chopped and 4 tablespoons of chopped flat leaf parsley.

*I crave spicy foods, so I leave the seeds and inner membrane in the peppers. If you like a little less heat, you can easily remove them before chopping the peppers.

Once the veggies are transparent, I put them into a bowl so that I could deglaze the pan and salvage all of the wonderful, caramelized bits.

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I added one quart of vegetable stock and 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar to the pan and allowed it to heat and with a little scraping, it picked-up all of the goodness on the bottom of the pan. I then added 2 tablespoons of butter, a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, and returned the meat to the pan.

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I poured ½ of a 16 oz bottle of Chipotle Apple Raspberry Sauce over the roast, and topped it with the vegetables. I use the apple raspberry flavors because the pectin in the apples helps tenderize the meat, and raspberries pair beautifully with beef, giving a piquant, sweet flavor.

I minced 2 teaspoons each of fresh rosemary, thyme, dill weed and sage leaves – if using fresh herbs, remove the stems or woody pieces first – and added them to a teaspoon of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Add one cup of tap water, then place the cover on the pan and lock it into place. I adjusted the flame to medium and set my kitchen timer to 30 minutes.

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After about 15 minutes, I noted that the first red line on the pressure top was exposed, which is how we usually gauge the time for vegetables. I figured I’d need about 15 more minutes, so I decided to make some hot water cornbread as a side dish, and to soak up the yummy juices. The cornbread is a family recipe – super easy – and a delicious alternative to making rolls or a loaf of fresh bread.

Hot Water Corn Bread

Heat 1” of vegetable oil in a cast iron pan, a heat it to 350’F. or until you see the shimmer on top of the oil.

Mix:

1 cup of corn meal (I use yellow, but the white cornmeal is fine)

1 onion, chopped fine

3/4 cup of boiling water

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon parsley flakes

Mixture will be sloppy.   Use a 1 ½ tablespoon cookie scoop, (the OXO Good Grips worked nicely), to drop the cornbread mixture into the hot oil. It will flatten slightly, and should fry to a golden brown in just a few minutes, turning once. Drain on a cooling rack or paper towels.

  • Note: if you have some bacon drippings saved in your refrigerator, from another recipe, you can add 2 teaspoons to the cornmeal mixture, prior to frying, for added flavor, or add crumbled bacon.

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Ok… it’s been 30 minutes, the second red stripe on the pressure release lid is now visible, and it smells heavenly… time to put an extra long oven mitt on my hand, turn off the stove and gently lift the pressure button to release the steam inside the pressure cooker. This is a time to be extra diligent that your arms are well protected from the escaping steam. If you’re not in a hurry, you can simply remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool on it’s own, or use an ice bath. I’ve never been patient enough to wait that long, and of course, I’m cooking at meal time, so the family/ friends are HUNGRY NOW, especially because it smells so good!

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Once the steam has released, the top can be turned and you have access to the delicious meal – all cooked in one pot, 60 minutes, including the prep time, start to finish. The only other clean up required is for your prep tools, and that makes you a ROCK STAR!

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We had such rave results for the ‘Not Your Mama’s Yankee Pot Roast’, that we decided to try it with the rolled pork roast the next week, and substituted Picante Sabroso Apple Spread for the Chipotle Apple Raspberry Sauce, and Nappa Cabbage for the jalapenos, red peppers and we added a teaspoon of the J&D’s Applewood Smoked Bacon Salt. Otherwise, we had the same browning, cooking time and delicious results. The apple spread paired so beautifully with the pork, and the pressure cooking made the meat and vegetables fork-tender and so full of flavor – we used homemade rolls to get every drop of gravy from the bottom of our bowls!

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Love Cake for One- Two Ways

 

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Sitting down to a lovely slice of multi-layer cake with your sweetie or dinner guests can be the perfect end to a lovely meal. When sharing a slice of cake is impractical – because that would mean plates, forks, napkins, cake server – cupcakes will be there to save the day, and they make a marvelous valentine treat that delivers that same convivial feeling in a convenient little package. They have become an iconic of singular indulgence in recent years allowing so many flavor flirtations, but always with Red Velvet as the ‘Ruby Slipper’ of all that selection. Red velvet cakes provide a dramatic and romantic show with their deep red color contrasted by rich Cream Cheese Frosting.

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We followed this classic recipe for Red Velvet from King Arthur Flour for our first batch of  Love Cakes which uses LorAnn Professional Red Velvet Flavor Baking Emulsion. According to the LorAnn website, this emulsion is more than just a food coloring or simple flavoring, it’s “Better than an Extract! Water-based instead of alcohol-based so the flavor won’t bake-out.”

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We did, however, choose a more traditional Cream Cheese Frosting recipe and ironically, topped them off with sprinkles that are colored naturally, lending their subtle hue to finish off our grown-up mini dessert.

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Using Seige Cup Cake Papers, which are strong enough to be filled and baked without a cupcake pan, also means they will keep their color, don’t get soggy and peel off easily so you get to eat every morsel without shamelessly chewing the wrapper.

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And if you thought red velvet was romantic, our second preparation gives your Love Cakes hearts of pure… well, FROSTING!

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You’ll want to fill your cupcake papers just a little more than you normally would for these, and using a cupcake scoop makes that easier than ever, so that you have a nice loft top. IMG_0331

You’ll cut this off, just above the paper line. Then, using a small heart cookie cutter, cut the middle from each top. If you like lots of frosting/ or if you want to add a second flavor of say chocolate mousse, fruit filling or whipped cream, you can also use the cupcake corer to remove even more cake from the center, making room for that extra surprise. Cover the entire top of the cupcake with frosting – colored to your liking – and replace the top, creating a precious Cut Out cupcake.

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If you happen to have left over cake (who are you? but honestly, those hearts and cores from above can be frozen and used here too) and frosting then Cake Pops are even more pass-along-able, especially for little loved ones! Just crumble those extra cakes and pieces into a large bowl, add the excess frosting and mash until you have a moist, mold-able mixture that can be rolled into balls and covered in chocolate. If you’re anything like me and you already know you won’t be having any leftovers, you can also use a cake pop pan that bakes your cake batter into perfectly round and fluffy balls so you don’t have to get your hands dirty.

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One of the trickiest bits to cake pops is the cooling process. We borrowed this clever tip to use a metal colander, turned on its top, to allow the pops to cool, drip and firm up without having a flat side – which can be useful in it’s own way.

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And if you have, or want, practice using a frosting bag and tip, decorating your Love Cakes with a rose the size of the cake itself means you can gift flowers, chocolate and dessert all in the same sweet little cake!

Special thanks to Ashley Adams, Kitchen Store Specialist and our very own Cupcake Creator Extraordinaire!

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Chocolate Dipped Cookie Decorating

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Now that you have your cookies baked, there are many options for decorating. For a sophisticated, elegant cookie collection, Chef Lisa shares her tips to decorating with chocolate.

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Chocolate Dipping tips:

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1- Melting/ Tempering

Using a clean metal bowl, larger than the mouth of your pot, place it on top of a pot of boiling water to melt your chocolate according to these temperatures:

Heat all chocolate to 115-120 degrees

once the chocolate is completely melted, bring the temp down to:

82-84 degrees for White Chocolate

88-89 degrees for Dark Chocolate

86-87 degrees for Milk Chocolate

Make sure to hold the chocolate at this temp during the time you will be using it.

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2- Dipping

To prevent excess chocolate on your cookies from dripping and pooling on the parchment, use a second metal bowl, a clean rubber band and a long straight kitchen implement, like a bamboo or metal skewer. Stretch the band across the bowl, making sure it is centered and won’t spring off. Secure the skewer by tucking it under the band and sliding both ends across the bowl lip. Place the bowl on the hot water pot (with burner off) and transfer pre-melted chocolate. Now as you dip you can gently scrape the bottom edge of the cookie along the skewer, removing the excess chocolate.

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To apply sprinkles without spilling too much excess, pour a small amount into the palm of your hand and use your fingers to pinch and apply the sprinkles to the melted chocolate.IMG_0381

3- For a better, less-mess drizzle:

Hold your cookie over the bowl of melted chocolte. With a silicone spatula, scoop a small amount of chocolate onto the blade and tip it slightly to begin the ‘flow’ of the chocolate. In quick uniform back and forth motions, move from one side of the cookie to the other, making sure to stop and start just past the cookie edge.

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Place dipped and decorated cookies in the freezer for a few minutes to get the chocolate to harden.

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When Making Macarons…

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Macarons are a particular kind of special treat, perhaps because they are so delicate- yet so flavorful, have both a crunch and a chew, come in so many colors, and can be filled in innumerable ways, or maybe it’s just because they can be tricky to master and make at home.

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We’ve certainly had our share of ‘feetless’ flops in the Allen & Petersen test kitchen, but with these tips, our own Beth Brown, Kitchen Store Specialist, gets closer to ‘Macaroner’ with every beautiful batch!

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Our favorite recipe is for French Meringue Macarons (pg 26) from the Macarons Cookbook by Cecile Cannone.

Beth’s tips for Macaron Making Success:

• Dry out your almond flour in a low temperature oven, for about 5 minutes, to eliminate excess moisture.

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• Combine flour and powdered sugar and pulse in the food processor, then sift twice for an extra smooth texture. Discard large bits.

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• Measure out your egg whites rather than just assuming your eggs are the right size to provide the necessary amount called for in your recipe.

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• Use gel food coloring! The liquid variety will add too much moisture to your macarons.

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• Don’t over-mix your batter when combining meringue and almond flour,  and always do this step by hand! Using an electric mixer will deflate your batter.

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• To fill your pastry bag, and in between batches, set your pastry bag in a tall glass cup with the tip touching the bottom to keep batter from spilling out.

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• If using the Mastrad Macaron mat, leave some spaces empty, or there may be too much steam in the oven. If you do fill it all the way, open the oven more than once
to release steam- once at 5 minutes, and again at 7 minutes.

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• Let your macarons rest!! 15-30 minutes after piping and before you put them in the oven. This step is crucial for developing the “feet” on the macarons.

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• Allow the macarons to cool completely before taking them off the mat. Press your finger into the back of one of the cooled shells, it should be soft. If it’s crisp or hard, reduce baking time on the next batch.

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• Don’t overfill your macaron shells, especially with a strong flavored filling as it can overwhelm the flavor of the macarons. Use just enough to hold the two together.

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• Because ganache can be made with white, milk or dark chocolate and can be easily flavored with a cream infusion, it makes a lovely filling for macarons- just be sure it has cooled and is firm enough to not compromise the texture of your cookies.

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Chocolate wafers also make a delightful companion to a macaron, especially with decorative transfers!

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A Sweetheart of a Treat

By Beth Brown and Tina LeBaron, Kitchen Store Specialists

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Crème brûlée is a decadent dessert that evokes memories of fancy restaurants, low lighting, and black-tie waiters. Until I learned how simple it can be with the right tools, crème brûlée seemed unattainable . . . but no more!

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Ramekins and a chef’s torch are basically all you need to make mouthwatering crème brûlée at home.

With this easy recipe, you can wow your guests (or indulge privately and eat it all yourself! We won’t tell.)

Ingredients

  • 4 cups   Heavy Cream
  • ½ cup    Summit Spice Vanilla Sugar
  • ½ cup    Granulated Sugar, divided in half
  • ½ tsp    Blue Cattle Truck Pure Mexican Vanilla
  • 8          Egg Yolks
  • Pinch    Salt
  • Powdered sugar and/or sugar-coated berries for garnish

Other Useful Tools:

  • Yolk Separator
  • Pouring Ladle
  • Fine Mesh Strainer
  • Ramekins
  • Torch
  • Silicone Tongs
  • Cooling Rack
  • Aerolatte Stencils

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Fill a kettle with water and bring to a boil. Arrange 9 ramekins in a large baking pan and set aside.

Place heavy cream in a medium saucepan and whisk in Vanilla Sugar, stir to combine. Heat over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let the mixture rest for five minutes.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, add egg yolks, ¼ a cup of granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt and whisk together until light and smooth. Add ¼ cup of cream mixture to the eggs, whisking immediately to combine and temper the eggs. Repeat. Add the remaining cream mixture, whisking constantly as you combine.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove any large vanilla beans pieces or bits of egg that may have cooked. Portion the custard into ramekins so that they are each nearly full.

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Place baking dish full of ramekins in the oven. Pour the boiling water into the pan slowly to avoid splashing water inside the ramekins, until the water reaches 2/3 up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the edges of the custard in the ramekins are set, and the centers are only slightly jiggly.

Using a spatula or tongs, preferably silicon coated for extra grip, carefully transfer ramekins to a cooling rack. Let cool until at room temperature, then refrigerate for at least three hours until cool.

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When ready to serve, sprinkle tops evenly with 1-2 teaspoons each of the remaining granulated sugar. Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the top of each custard. Let the custard rest for one minute. Place your stencil as close to the surface of the crème brûlée as possible. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and remove stencil. Add sugar-coated berries for garnish.

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Already a crème brûlée aficionado? Using the Vanilla-infused sugar from Summit Spice adds an extra layer of flavor, and gives it those delectable flecks of vanilla bean. Dress it up even more using cappuccino stencils to create powdered sugar accents, and you’ve got a five star dessert.

Looking for even more inspiration, and more excuses to use your torch—because, really, it’s super fun—check out the Crèmes Brûlées cookbook by Mastrad and learn how to make dozens of sweet – and even savory – crème brûlée recipes to bring some fanciness to your table!

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