Posted by: njbrown | July 13, 2011

Lemon Lavender Crème Brûlée


Lemon Lavender Crème Brûlée

Some time ago, I came across a recipe for lemon lavender crème brûlée that I thought might be interesting.  The lavender in my garden is in  blossom, so it seemed to be the right time to give the recipe a try.  The recipe came from a women’s magazine, and once I got to the tasting point, I realized major aspects of the instructions had been left out or were incorrect.  So again, I went back to Julia.  (Much of the time, I wonder why I ever use anyone else’s recipes, because hers are absolutely reliable and clear.)  I was surprised that she didn’t have a crème brûlée recipe in The Way to Cook, and Mastering was at the bottom of my pile of cookbooks, so I did a quick computer search for her recipe.  To the recipe I found, I just substituted lemon zest for orange, and I added the lavender.  Julia says to bake the crème at 300 degrees, but the video from the French Culinary Institute (link below) stipulates 325 degrees (as do most other recipes I reviewed).

Apparently the first crème brûlée recipe came from a French cookbook in 1691.  Since propane torches weren’t even imagined at that time, and broilers didn’t exist, I wonder how they brûléed the crème – perhaps a burning branch?  One of the mysteries of culinary history.

Lemon Lavender Crème Brûlée

Makes 4 servings of 6 oz

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 egg yolks (free range eggs)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla bean)
  • zest from one lemon
  • 1 Tbsp. lavender flowers (fresh)
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar for topping

Directions

  1. In a sauce pan heat cream until bubbly around edges, but do not boil – temperature should be about 140 F .
  2. Stir in extract or vanilla bean and zest and remove from heat to steep for 30 minutes to absorb the flavors. Strain.
  3. In another bowl, whisk egg yolks gently with sugar.
  4. Slowly incorporate ¼ of the cream into the yolks, being careful to bring the temperature of the yolks up slowly so they do not scramble.
  5. Stir all the yolks and cream together without making a lot of bubbles. (Bubbles can be taken off either by blowing with blowtorch briefly, skimming  with a ladle, or dabbing gently with the corner of a paper towel.)
  6. Ladle crème mixture into 6 oz. ramekins.  Again, remove any bubbles.
  7. Place all but one of the ramekins in a 9×13 baking dish in which you have placed a dish towel or paper towel.
  8. Fill partially with boiling water (half-way up ramekins) to create a water bath and then put last ramekin in.
  9. Bake at 325° for 30-35 minutes.
  10. When done, the custard should be set, but jiggle in the middle.
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Store  in the fridge until ready to serve.
  12. Just before serving sprinkle the tops evenly with sugar. Pour off excess sugar.
  13. Either caramelize the tops with a hand-held torch or place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes until the sugar melts.

For those who are visual learners, here is a wonderful video from the French Culinary Institute that shows every step of the process:  http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5838853936019495074#

Garnish:

Lay lemon on its side.  Cut about a 1/8 inch circular slice from the centre of the lemon.  Using a small sharp knife, cut from center of slice through rind.  Then cut off the pith and fruit and trim remaining strip to desired length and width.  Tie around lavender sprigs.

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