“first Blush” Pink Peppercorn-cherry Creme Brulee

Just like new love, there’s something so thrilling about a crème brûlée — smashing through that caramelized sugar-glass exterior to access the creamy velvet within. And like new love, this dessert is sweet but also full of unexpected surprises — the piney pink peppercorns perfectly complement the sweet-tart cherries in the vanilla-flecked custard.
20 min
2 Servings


  • ½ cup canned sour or tart cherries, drained
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out OR ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp pink peppercorns, crushed
  • ¼ tsp almond extract (optional, but worth it)
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup sugar plus 2 tbsp for top
  • Instructions

    1. Preheat the oven to 325o and set two 6-ounce ramekins or individual gratin dishes. Sprinkle ¼ cup of cherries into each ramekin. Get a teapot boiling.
    2. In a small pot, combine the heavy cream, vanilla bean (both the pod and the seeds), and ½ tsp of the pink peppercorns, and heat until it just comes to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let it steep for 15 minutes. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the peppercorns and vanilla bean. Stir in the almond extract and salt. (If you’re using vanilla extract instead of a bean, add it now.)
    3. Beat the egg yolks and ¼ cup of sugar in a bowl until light and creamy. Set the bowl on a damp towel or washcloth to hold it steady, then temper the egg yolks by slowly whisking in just ¼ of the hot cream mixture before fully combining the rest of the hot cream with the eggs and sugar.
    4. Pour the custard into the ramekins or gratin dishes, then sprinkle on the remaining pink peppercorns. Carefully set the baking dish in the oven and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins/gratins. Bake for 30-35 minutes for ramekins, or 20-25 minutes for gratin dishes, until just set — the center should still be slightly jiggly. Allow the crèmes brûlées to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
    5. When you’re ready to serve, evenly sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on top of each crème brûlée. Place the ramekins on the top oven rack (a couple inches from the heat source) and turn on the broiler. Watch it carefully, and remove when the sugar topping starts to melt, bubble, and turn brown, about 5 minutes. Remove and serve within two hours.