Prepare Chocolate Praline; set aside.
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Adjust oven rack to center position. Butter six to eight (1/2 cup) ramekins or custard cups and set them into a glass baking dish. Tip: Place a non-stick baking mat (called a silpat) or a tea towel on the bottom of your baking dish to both insulate and keep the ramekins firmly in place.
Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise; scrape seeds into a saucepan. Add vanilla pod, whipping cream, and milk. Over medium heat, stir until mixture just begins to boil; remove from heat. Remove vanilla pods from cream mixture; rinse and dry for another use or discard.
Place chocolate into a microwave-safe glass bowl; heat until soft at 50% power approximately 2 minutes. Remove from microwave and stir chocolate until smooth.
Definition of Water Bath or Bain-Marie (bahn mah-REE) - A hot water bath or bain-marie are used to cook custards and baked eggs in the oven without curdling or cracking, and also used to hold sauces and to clarify butter. Water baths are most often used for egg-based dishes. The proteins in the eggs are very heat sensitive and only need to be warmed to cook thoroughly. They will start to get firm at only 145 degrees. Cooking them with a slow, gentle heat keeps the eggs soft and smooth.
In a large bowl, beat egg yolks until slightly thickened. Add sugar and mix until dissolved; mix in 1/2 cup of hot cream mixture. Add remaining hot cream mixture and mix until well combined. Pour mixture into a blender; add hot melted chocolate (if it has cooled to room temperature, reheat briefly in microwave just until hot to touch - do not overheat); whirl until no chocolate flecks remain. Pour mixture through a fine strainer into a large glass measuring cup or bowl. Stir in Amaretto and Kahlua liqueur.
Pour chocolate mixture into prepared ramekins or custard cups. Bring the water for the water bath (see definition on right) to a light simmer on top of the stove; carefully pour hot water into the baking pan to come half-way up the sides of the custard cups. NOTE: The most common mistake people make in baking a custard is not putting enough water in the hot-water bath. The water should come up to the level of the custard inside the cups. You must protect your custard from the heat.
Bake approximately 30 to 40 minutes (25 to 30 minutes for shallow fluted dishes) or until set around the edges but still loose in the center. The cooking time will depend largely on the size of the ramekin or custard cup you are using and the altitude you are at. Begin checking at a half hour and check back regularly. When the center of the custard is just set, it will jiggle a little when shaken. This is when you can remove it from the oven. If using a digital instant-read thermometer, inserted in the centers, the internal temperature should register approximately 170 to 175 degrees F. Begin checking temperature about 5 minutes before recommended time.
High Altitude Cooking: Custards with a water bath will often need additional water during the baking time. Also your custards will need a longer cooking time because the altitude causes the water to evaporate faster.
This is the type of cooking and meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking. I get many readers asking what cooking/meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking and baking. I, personally, use the Thermapen Thermometer shown in the photo on the right.
Remove from oven and leave in the water bath until cooled to room temperature. Remove ramekins or custard cups from water bath, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
Finishing the Creme Brulees: Finish the custards right before serving.
When ready to serve, sprinkle approximately 2 teaspoons of remaining sugar over each creme brulee.
For best results, use a small hand held propane torch. Hold the torch 4 to 5 inches from the sugar, maintaining a slow and even motion. Stop torching just before the desired degree of doneness is reached, as the sugar will continue to cook for a few seconds after flame has been removed.
If you do not have a torch, place creme brulees 6 inches below the broiler for 4 to 6 minutes or until sugar bubbles and turns golden brown.
Refrigerate creme brulees at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve within 1 hour, as topping will deteriorate.
Makes 6 to 8 servings (depending on size of custard cups).
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
In a 9-inch pie pan, place almonds; bake until nuts are golden, shaking pan once, approximately 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
Lightly coat a 12-inch square of aluminum foil with vegetable oil.
In a large frying pan over low heat, combine sugar, butter, corn syrup, and milk; stir until mixture is bubbly and just starts to turn golden, approximately 5 to 7 minutes; immediately remove from heat and stir in unsweetened cocoa and stir until smooth. Stir in toasted almonds.
Pour mixture onto oiled aluminum foil and spread. Let cool until solid, about 10 minutes.
Break praline into 6 to 8 large chunks.
NOTE: Praline can be made up to 1 week ahead. Store at room temperature.