Chaya's crème brulée

New Orleans is not a town known for its desserts. Bread pudding, bananas Foster, and frozen Creole cream cheese are about the extent of our local dessert creations. Crème brûlée or more often crème caramel, however, are New Orleans classics. In humble eateries, there are rich, delicious versions often called cup custard. New Orleans nursery food at its best, cup custard was a convalescent’s dream long before the world heard of Jello—pudding or otherwise!

Here, pastry chef Chaya Conrad further embellishes the creamy dessert with a bit of crunch provided by native Louisiana pecans combined with puff pastry. Thank goodness for Pepperidge Farms, whose frozen puff pastry is a reliable grocery store staple.


  • 4 cups heavy cream, divided
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 12 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • dash salt 
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry
  • sugar (for garnish)


In a large saucepan, combine 3-1/2 cups of the cream and 1/2 cup of the sugar; bring to a boil over medium heat.

Meanwhile, combine remaining 1/2 cup cream, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and egg yolks in the top of a double boiler set over medium heat. Cook and whip until mixture is a light lemon color and ribbon stage is reached.

Remove pan containing cream-sugar mixture from the heat, and take pan containing yolk mixture out of the double boiler. Slowly pour the hot cream into the yolk mixture, stirring to blend. Return the pan to the double boiler and continue to heat until mixture becomes thick (approximately 178 degrees). Remove from heat and cool, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar, pecans, butter, and salt; toss to coat pecans. Spread pecans on a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees until they begin to brown. Watch carefully so they do not burn. Remove from oven and cool.

Roll out puff pastry very thin. Use a fork or docker to clock the dough. Line large muffin cups with dough, then place foil over the dough, pressing foil into the cups. Fill cups with dried beans or pastry weights and bake blind in a 375-degree oven for approximately 20 minutes. Remove from oven and take out beans and foil. Leave pastry in the cups and set aside to cool.

When pastry is cool, remove from cups. Place about 1 tablespoon of the pecan mixture in each pastry shell and top with crème brulée mixture. Refrigerate for about 25 minutes to allow mixture to set up.

Sprinkle tops generously with granulated sugar. Using a butane torch, caramelize the sugar until it is golden brown. Return to refrigerator to chill for about 15 minutes.

Serves 8

Recipe compliments of Pastry Chef Chaya Conrad

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