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April in Paris: Lavender Creme Brulee

2012 April 26

In all honesty, I am not that much of a custard person. There’s plenty to go wrong while you’re making it, from letting the cream boil to sort of scrambling the egg and ending up with custard with weird little bits in it to not cooking it enough and having slimy custard. Sometimes these things even happen in restaurants!

In spite of all that, there is a certain appeal to creme brulee. It’s a Sometimes Food for me. You get to play with fire (okay, you can do it in the broiler, but a kitchen torch is so much more fun) and you can even make it a few days in advance for instance dessert decadence on a weeknight. Plus, there are tons of ways to elevate it beyond custard and burnt sugar by mixing in some pureed fruit or infusing the cream with spices. To add a little extra Frenchiness to a dessert that’s already a French classic, I infuse the cream with some culinary lavender. It’s a soothing, floral addition that, if you didn’t know what it was, you might not be able to place right away (you can skip the lavender if it’s not your thing, it won’t hurt my feelings. Just follow the recipe without the steeping, being extra careful to let the cream cool a little before combing with the eggs, lest you end up with sweetened scrambled eggs).

Lavender Creme Brulee

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 cup heavy cream

1 Tablespoon dried lavender

1/4 cup sugar plus 2 Tablespoons

2 large egg yolks

Method

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Put a kettle of water on to boil.

In a small saucepan over medium, heat cream and lavender to just short of boiling (there will be steam rising from the pan and wee bubbles around the edge). Just when you think it’s about to boil, immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs and sugar in a medium-sized bowl.

After the lavender cream has steeped but while the cream is still warm, strain about one quarter of the cream into the egg and sugar mixture, quickly whisking together. Once the cream is fully incorporated and the temperature of the mixture stabilized, strain the rest of the cream into the mixture and whisk together.

Divide the custard between two ramekins. Place the ramekins in a baking dish and pour the boiling water around them, about halfway up the ramekins’ sides. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, checking for doneness in the last 10 minutes — the custards should be firm but still a teeny bit jiggly when moved.

Remove from water bath to cool to room temperature then chill in the ‘fridge for at least one hour or up to one week.

Before serving, sprinkle each dessert with 1 Tablespoon sugar, raw or turbinado sugar if you have it. If you have a kitchen torch, hold the torch about 8 inches from the custard surface and flame the sugar into a golden brown candy crust. Otherwise, place ramekins under a preheated broiler and broil until sugar has caramelized, about 2 minutes. Remember, either method will leave you with a hot ramekin! so handle with care. Serve immediately.

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