Posted by Grace Massa Langlois on Friday, 6th July 2012

About a month ago I spotted a bag of Australian Style Gourmet Black Liquorice at my local market. I’m a huge fan of black liquorice and of course I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try a gourmet variety. Well, it only took one piece of the soft liquorice to get me hooked – now I can’t stop eating them!

A photo of two Licorice Crème Brûlée desserts in small black iron pots with lids placed in a row on a black, rectangular slate tile.

After posting my recipe for Mississippi Mud Pie a discussion began in the comments section about what could be substituted for the Frangelico (Italian hazelnut liqueur). I recommended a technique I use occasionally when making hazelnut gelato and it got me to thinking about trying this infusion technique to impart the wonderful flavour of black liquorice in custard for Crème Brûlée.

A photo of a pile of fresh black mission figs on a black slate tile.

The technique is as simple as extracting the flavour of vanilla from vanilla beans. Bring the liquorice, cream and of course vanilla bean and seeds (I can’t make custard without adding the flavour of vanilla) just to the boil, remove from heat, cover and let stand at room temperature for about 3 hours. The infusion imparts a delicate liquorice flavour.

A photo of Liquorice Creme Brulee dessert in a mini iron pot with lid on a square, black slate tile served with Caramelized Figs and garnished with toasted walnuts.

I was planning to add a few teaspoons of Sambuca (Italian anise-flavoured liqueur) to the custard to boost the black liquorice flavour but thinking again about the conversation in the Missisippi Mud Pie comments I decided to only flavour half of the custard. In recent weeks I’ve realized that I’ve been remiss to offer alcohol substitutions in my recipes. I’m quick to add liqueur in desserts but going forward I’m going to make a conscious effort to offer a substitution.

A close up photo of Caramelized Figs with Sambuca in a red, iron skillet.

My sister Anna and my niece Natalie conveniently stopped in for a visit the day I made the desserts. After dinner we enjoyed a liquorice crème brûlée taste testing. Most (Anna and I enjoyed both) preferred the crème brûlée subtly flavoured with the liquorice rather than the extra kick provided by the Sambuca. And if you prefer a stronger liquorice flavour there’s also the option of allowing the liquorice to infuse for a longer period of time.

A photo of a Black Licorice Creme Brulee in a pale blue ramekin on a black, rectangle-shaped slate tile served with Caramelized Figs and garnished with toasted walnuts and a drizzling of caramel sauce.

Liana surprised me with a rare, extra special treat from the market, black mission figs. I thought they would pair beautifully with the liquorice crème brûlée.

When I first started my journey into the world of desserts I purchased a book called The Flavor Bible. It’s been an invaluable resource for pairing flavours and extremely useful when you’re experimenting with a new flavour because it lists ingredient after ingredient that pairs well with the flavour. It also puts emphasis on the ingredients that pair the best. Imagine my surprise when I looked up figs and there was a strong emphasis on aniseed and caramel. I knew I was on the right path caramelizing the figs with a splash of Sambuca.

A photo of two Liquorice Creme Brulee desserts served in pale blue ramekins arranged one behind the other on pale blue dessert dishes with dessert spoons.

Sambuca can easily be substituted with anise extract or anise oil but if neither are available aniseed works as well. To add a textural contrast I garnished the figs with toasted walnuts.

In the end I was extremely happy with the flavours and textures and everyone really enjoyed the dessert. During the taste testing there were a few that initially didn’t want to try the dessert because they passionately disliked liquorice. With a bit of coaxing they finally tried it and to my surprise and theirs, they really enjoyed it.

A photo of a French Dessert, Creme Brulee infused with black liquorice and served with Caramelized Figs and toasted walnuts.

And for the one (who will remain nameless, maybe not – Liana) who adamantly insisted she hated liquorice did a good job of polishing off the dessert. And surprise, surprise she was looking for another the very next day – sorry honey, mom ate the last one.

A photo taken looking down on two Creme Brulee desserts in pale blue ramekins set on pale blue dessert dishes.

I like to serve this type of dessert for a dinner party. Most of the preparations can be done ahead of time; in fact the liquorice crème brûlée can be prepared up to 3 days in advance and quickly caramelized just before serving. Although the figs need to be prepared à la minute they are quite easy to prepare.

A photo of a Liquorice Creme Brulee dessert served in a mini, black iron pot with lid set on a yellow cloth napkin.

Other dinner party recipes that you may like to try for your next get together, Oreo Key Lime Pies, Lemon Posset with Langues de Chat or gourmet Black Forest Cupcakes.

A photo taken looking down on two Black Liquorice Creme Brulee desserts served in black, mini iron pots wit lids and dessert spoons arranged on a black, rectangle-shaped slate tile.

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Posted in Baking & Pastry, Baking Mise en Place, Basics, Custards, Creams & Mousses, Dolci al Cucchiaio, Dolci alla Frutta, Fillings, Frostings & Dessert Sauces, Fruit Desserts, Recipes, Ricette di Base, Spoon Desserts

Comments (6)

6 Responses to “Liquorice Crème Brûlée and Caramelized Figs with Sambuca”

  1. Sanjeeta kk Says:

    Beautiful styling the brulee look sooo so tempting!

  2. Russell at Chasing Delicious Says:

    Wow. What a couple of recipes! Those caramelized figs look incredible.

  3. marly Says:

    Looks delicious. I love fresh figs!

  4. Sandra Says:

    I’m not a black licorice fan, but I would have dug into this beautiful dessert in a heartbeat. I’m the only person in my house that likes figs so this treat would be mine all mine!

  5. Mariam Says:

    Oh my liquorice creme brulee! I am huge on black liqourie! Is the one you use by any chance Darrel Lea – i’m getting withdrawl symptoms they’ve run out of business and my local (and many other) shops closed so it is very difficult for me to get and I don’t enjoy other brands :(

    Guess i’ll try this when I get lucky!

  6. Grace Says:

    Hi Mariam I’ve been purchasing a brand called Wiley Wallaby (love it) but unfortunately I too have been going through withdrawal my local market hasn’t stocked it for the last little while. I know Costco have been stocking soft black liquorice (unsure of the brand name) in the last little while, I did purchase a bag and quite liked it.

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