Pfeffernusse Creme Brulee

6 years ago


This is my official entry dish for the Foodie Blog Roll/Marx Foods Iron Foodie 2010 challenge.  I was honored to be one of  twenty-five finalists, and thank Foodie Blog Roll and Marx Foods for giving me the opportunity to participate-I had so much fun designing this recipe!  When voting begins in two days, I will give you the link, so you can vote (if you'd like.)


The secret ingredients that I received from Marx foods are as follows:

  • Smoked Salt:  Salt that has been smoked over a flame. It has a strong smoky taste and scent.
  • Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla Bean:  Some of the finest vanilla bean in the world. 
  • Aji Panca Chilies:  Dark red chilies with a mild smoky/fruity taste.  Used in Peruvian cuisine.
  • Fennel Pollen:  Has a sweet anise-like taste.  It is hard to harvest, so is considered very rare.
  • Porcini Mushroom:  An Italian mushroom with a delicate taste.  
  • Tellicherry Peppercorns:  Considered one of the finest peppers in the world.  From the Tellicherry region of India.  It is considered a mild peppercorn with a slightly bitter aftertaste. 
  • Dulce Seaweed:  A strong-flavored seaweed.  The Japanese believe it contains the "fifth" taste, also called the umani, which is a savory flavor which enhances the flavors of other foods. 
  • Maple Sugar:  The dried sap remaining after tapping maple syrup.  It is twice as sweet as regular sugar, and has a lower flash point.  


Are you familiar with Pfeffernusse?   Pfeffernusse is a Dutch/German cookie that was traditionally baked during Sinterklaas, the feast on December 5th, celebrating the arrival of St Nicholas. The name actually translates to pepper nut, because of the taste, and the roundness of the cookie.


Pfeffernusse has a spicy-sweet taste, derived from the pepper, anise, cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices, and sometimes nuts.  Growing up, my German grandmother always had Pfeffernusse during the holidays, and they became one of my favorite holiday cookies. 


When I opened the package from Marx Foods and saw the different ingredients, I was torn between making a seafood dish, something with duck, or a dessert.  Seafood would have been the simpler route (for me), but I wanted to "play" with these ingredients, and make something simple, yet truly exotic.  I kept going back to the Tellicherry peppercorns: I was fascinated by the taste, and knew I had to incorporate them into whatever recipe I created.  I was also captivated with the fennel pollen.  Fennel can have a strong, sometimes over-powering anise taste, yet fennel pollen has a light, slightly sweet taste, very pleasant.  Since the holidays were coming, I decided I would use both ingredients, and make pfeffernusse!


But what to do with the other ingredients?  The seaweed?  Interesting.  The aji chilies?  Even more interesting.  Smoked Salt.  Bold!  After going back and forth, I finally decided to use the vanilla bean, as well as the maple sugar, to make a creme brulee-a pfeffernusse creme brulee!


Without further ado, here is the recipe...


  • 4 Egg Yolks
  • 5 Tbsp. White Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Fennel Pollen
  • 1 Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla Bean 
  • 1 tsp. Ground Tellicherry Peppercorn
  • 1/8 tsp. Ground Clove
  • 1/8 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 c. Heavy Cream
  • 3 Tbsp. Maple Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. White Sugar


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Place four ramekins in a  large baking dish.  Place the four egg yolks in a non-reactive bowl and whisk slightly.



Add the sugar and fennel pollen.



Cut the vanilla bean in half, and scrape the seed into the bowl with the eggs and sugar.  



Place the peppercorns in a pepper grinder and grind.



  Look at these gorgeous peppercorns, I almost hate to grind them!



I used a grinder that grinds coarse-I wanted to see and taste the pepper in the creme.



 Place the ground pepper into the bowl with the egg.  Add the clove, ginger, and cinnamon, and whisk.  Slowly stir in the heavy cream until well blended.



Divide the liquid into the four ramekins.  Place the baking dish in the oven, and pour hot water around the dishes, until the water is 3/4 way up the side of the ramekins.



Bake until the creme is set, about 40-45 minutes.  Take the baking dish out of the oven, and remove the ramekins from the hot water.



Let the ramekins cool for about 15 minutes, and then place in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours.  About two hours before serving, heat the oven to broil*, and mix the maple sugar and white sugar together.  Sprinkle evenly over the four ramekins.



Put the ramekins on a baking sheet, and place under the broiler.  Watch the ramekins carefully so the sugar does not burn (remember- the maple sugar has a lower flash point.)  Keep under the broiler for about 2 minutes, turn the tray around, and broil for another minute or so.



Remove from the oven, and cool in the refrigerator for an hour or two before serving. 




*Cooking notes:  

  • I mixed the maple sugar with regular sugar for the brulee, because the maple sugar seemed to crust dry.  Adding the white sugar allowed the brulee to caramelize more evenly. 
  • Use a brulee torch if you have one, as it will cook faster and more evenly than the broiler. I had a hard time finding butane for my torch, so had to use the broiler. 
  • I garnished the brulee with fresh blueberries, but you can use any fruit.  Blueberries did not overwhelm the extraordinary flavors of this dish. 


The dish came out beautiful, much more delicious than my expectations.  The pepper is not too spicy, and added a nice warm kick to the back of the throat.  The fennel pollen and vanilla bean added subtle flavor to the creme-not at all overwhelming.  The maple sugar was the perfect complement to the other flavors, and although the brulee did not crust as hard as traditional brulee, the crunchy texture contrasted nicely with the smooth, creamy creme. 


To purchase the spice ingredients used in the recipe, go to Marx Foods

For other delectable recipes, go to Foodie Blog Roll…

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