Note: Even in the early days of California cuisine, creme bru^lee was ubiquitous. In response to the overabundance of burnt sugar, Jimmy Brinkley, the original pastry chef of Michael's restaurant in Santa Monica, came up with this variation back when the restaurant opened in 1979. The recipe ran as part of a cover story marking the reunion of chefs who cooked at Michael McCarty's breakthrough restaurant, which helped define California cuisine and later Modern American cuisine. Sixteen years later, we're still eating too much creme bru^lee and Brinkley's alternative seems practically new.
PATE SUCREE 5 1/3 cups flour 3/4 cup granulated sugar 2 cups unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1-inch cubes 3 large egg yolks 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
Put flour and sugar into bowl of mixer fitted with dough hook. With mixer on low, add butter and mix until ingredients resemble cornmeal, about 10 minutes. (Food processor may also be used.)
In separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks and cream until smooth. Increase mixer speed to medium and add yolk-cream mixture. As soon as dough comes together (should just take few seconds), stop mixer. Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. Gather each piece of dough into ball; wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator 30 to 60 minutes before using.
FILLING 3 cups heavy whipping cream 7 large egg yolks 6 tablespoons granulated sugar 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
Bring cream to boil in heavy saucepan over medium heat. At same time, bring water to boil in bottom of double boiler, then reduce heat to simmer. Combine egg yolks and granulated sugar in top of double boiler set over simmering water. Whisk together until mixture is very thick.
Whisking continuously, pour hot cream into yolks. Reduce heat to low and let mixture cook 30 minutes, whisking about every 3 minutes.
Place cake ring 8 inches in diameter and 2 inches high on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll out pastry to circle about 10 inches in diameter. Roll pastry around rolling pin and unroll onto cake ring. Press pastry into bottom and up sides of ring, raising and pinching edges just barely over rim. Place large flat coffee filter inside and fill with pie weights or beans. Bake pastry at 350 degrees on bottom oven rack until edges are light golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove pie weights and filter. Slide circle of heavy cardboard under pastry and remove ring.
Fill pastry shell with thick cream mixture. Using sifter, sift even layer of brown sugar on top. Crimp strip of foil over edge of pastry to prevent burning. Place dessert in heated broiler and broil until sugar is melted, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, watching carefully to prevent burning.
Refrigerate tart until filling sets, about 2 hours.
Makes 1 (8- or 10-inch) tart, about 8 servings.
Each serving contains about: 678 calories; 51 mg sodium; 420 mg cholesterol; 51 grams fat; 51 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams protein; 0.06 grams fiber.