I recently caught an episode of Brunch at Bobby’s on a lazy Sunday morning. There are few cooking shows I bother to sit down and watch anymore (I am not as enamored of Guy Fieri as the person in charge of the Food Network schedule), but I didn’t feel like changing the channel so I just kept it on in the background and went about brewing another pot of tea.
About twenty minutes later, as I sat contemplating the cruelest joke of a puzzle ever, Bobby dropped some granola into a ramekin and spooned greek yogurt on top, and then he pulled out a freaking blow torch and suddenly had my full attention. As I watched him sprinkle sugar on top of the yogurt, I realized what he was about to do, and I was 100% on board. Because, yes! Of course creamy greek yogurt would make a brilliant base for a crackly, caramel crust! And you could eat it for breakfast!* I only briefly considered the fact that I do not own a culinary torch (and Bobby sternly warned against broiling these beauties) before I decided to attempt these at home, and when a week later on The Kitchen Jeff Mauro demonstrated a kitchen hack for bruleeing without a torch, I decided the universe had thrown me enough signs and I began plotting how to put my own spin on bruleed yogurt for the blog. Enter rhubarb season, and I had my answer.
*Let the record show that I historically have not had any qualms about polishing off a real crème brulee at breakfast.
These may not look like much in the photos, but I promise their flavor is everything. True, the rhubarb compote is more of a blushy pink than a brilliant magenta, and the brulee is only somewhat present (I didn’t find that the alternative method worked very well), but when the tart compote with its flecks of vanilla bean and those precious shards of caramel swirl into the yogurt, they all combine into this creamy, fruity, gem of a breakfast treat that you can forgive for all its aesthetic flaws.
Also, I totally lied to you, because I couldn’t tear myself away from The Great British Baking Show on Netflix and seriously, everyone needs to watch it. Then we can all talk about the great Baked Alaska sabotage of 2014 like we were there.
Brûléed Yogurt with Vanilla Rhubarb Strawberry Compote
Serves 4, Rhubarb compote adapted from David Lebovitz
2 large stalks rhubarb (about 1/2 pound), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup + 1/8 cup water
1 small piece fresh ginger, sliced but unpeeled
1/2 vanilla bean
1/8 cup sugar
1/8 cup honey
1/4 lb strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 cups greek yogurt (I used 2%)
4 tsp sugar, for the brulee
- Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add seeds and the pod to a medium sized pot over medium heat with the water, ginger, sugar and honey. Heat until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup is simmering.
- Add the rhubarb to the syrup and cook about 5 minutes, until softened, then add the strawberries and cook 5 minutes more.
- Remove from heat and let cool. Strain, reserving the syrup for later use, and when completely cool, remove the ginger pieces and vanilla bean pod.
- In 4 small ramekins or other heat-safe dishes, layer 1/4 cup compote in each, and top with 1/2 cup yogurt, smoothing out the tops. Sprinkle each with 1 tsp sugar and brulee with method of your choice (if using torch or measuring cup method, it's best to do these one at a time).
- To brulee with a culinary torch (recommended): sprinkle tops with the sugar, and carefully run the flame over the sugar until caramelized.
- To brulee with a metal measuring cup: Heat a flat-bottomed, stainless steel 1/2 cup measuring cup on a stove burner set on high. While heating, sprinkle the top of one yogurt filled ramekin with sugar. When hot (I tested by putting a little water in the cup and waiting until it boiled off), pick up the cup (use an oven mitt!!) and gently place on top of the sugar. It should immediately begin melting and caramelizing. If it doesn't, your measuring cup likely isn't hot enough. Repeat with remaining yogurts.
- I would strongly recommend a brulee torch for these. I did not have very much success with the measuring cup method, and yogurt doesn't do very well under a broiler (trust me). I've been resisting buying one because it's really only used for this one thing, but they are inexpensive and this experiment convinced me it's probably worth buying, because the few pieces of caramelized sugar I did manage only made me wish for the real thing.
- Bonus recipe! combine 1 part reserved rhubarb syrup and 3 parts club soda or sparkling water to make vanilla rhubarb soda, which tastes just like a rhubarb cream soda, and I highly recommend garnishing with a sprig of rosemary because the scent combined with the soda is amaaaaazing.