This bubble tea crème brûlée features a creamy milk tea custard under a layer of crunchy caramelized sugar and topped with tapioca pearls in brown sugar syrup.
Ever since I made my earl grey crème brûlée, I couldn't stop thinking about making another tea-infused custard and topping it with the tapioca pearls from bubble tea or boba. I've made this version with hojicha (roasted green tea) but you can use any kind black tea as well. Spoon some tapioca pearls on right before eating and you have yourself a bubble tea crème brûlée.
This dessert is full of different textures that make it so delicious. You have the creaminess of the custard, the crunchiness of the caramelized sugar, and the chewiness of the tapioca pearls. Every bite is exciting and you'll want to dig into another one.
How to make bubble tea crème brûlée
Prep: Preheat oven to 325°F and place ramekins on top of a large baking tray. Set aside.
Infuse cream with tea: In a small pot, heat whipping cream until just before it comes to a simmer. Add in the tea bags, cover, and steep for 5 minutes. Use the back of a spoon to press the tea bags against the side of the pot to squeeze out all the tea-infused liquid inside before discarding.
Whisk: In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and brown sugar.
Temper eggs: Slowly pour the hot tea-infused cream into the egg mixture while whisking constantly.
Pour into ramekins: Divide this mixture into your ramekins. Use a paper towel to dab away any large air bubbles on the surface.
Fill tray with hot water: Place the entire tray (with the ramekins on top) into the oven and then pour enough hot water into the tray until it submerges about half the height of the ramekins.
Bake: Bake for about 28-30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the crème brûlees reaches 170°F. The edges should be set but the middle should still be quite jiggly.
Chill: Let the ramekins cool to room temperature before chilling in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Cook tapioca pearls: In a small pot, bring about 3" of water to a boil. Pour in the tapioca pearls and give it a stir immediately. Boil uncovered for 15 minutes. Then, remove from heat, cover, and let it sit for another 15 minutes.
Cook in brown sugar syrup: Strain the pearls, discard the water, and put the pearls back into the same pot. To the pot, add the brown sugar and fresh water. Bring it back to a boil and boil uncovered for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the brown sugar syrup thickens slightly.
Caramelize sugar topping: Sprinkle the surface of each crème brûlée with a tablespoon of granulated sugar. Use a blowtorch to caramelize the sugar by moving across the surface without staying in the same spot for too long. Once the sugar hardens, add a heaping spoonful of tapioca pearls on top of each crème brûlée right before serving.
Tips for making the best crème brûlée
- Don’t overbake. Depending on the size and shape of your ramekins, this crème brûlée goes from just right to overbaked in just 1-2 minutes. Start checking the oven a few minutes before the the bake time is over. It’s better to underbake the custard since it will have time to set in the fridge and you won’t lose that creaminess that you want.
- Caramelize the sugar topping right before serving. Torch each crème brûlée immediately after sprinkling the sugar and serve it right afterwards to maintain its crunch.
- Likewise, add the tapioca pearls right before serving. The moisture from the brown sugar syrup will slowly start to soften the crunchy caramelized sugar topping the longer it sits on top.
- Torched crème brûlée does not store well and should be enjoyed right away. The caramelized sugar topping will turn into syrup after a couple of hours or if stored in the fridge. To make it ahead, store the baked custard in the fridge up to 3 days in advance and make the tapioca pearls on the day you plan on serving them.