Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lime ginger crème brulée

We are a part of a supper club which consists of 4 couples and meets every couple months, and the theme for the last one was "Taste of the Orient". I was in charge of dessert and really wanted to make crème brulée, so this version adds a twist to the classic crème by adding the Asian flavour combo of lime and ginger. The flavours were subtle and the dessert was delicious.

Crème brulée is my favourite dessert. It's a creamy, deceptively light little custard that has a satisfying sweet crunch of the burnt sugar done either with a small blowtorch or under the broiler.  The name "crème brulée" is actually a misnomer... we should probably call them "sucres brulée".  I guess it doesn't have the same ring to it... This dessert has gotten a bit of a reputation for being difficult, temperamental shall we say, the diva of desserts.  Cooking custard can be tricky since you have to cook the egg mixture just so, often carefully stirring over a double-boiler until just the right texture which is vaguely described as "coating a spoon".  What does that really mean? Coat a spoon. Anything coats a spoon.  I love this recipe because I don't have to stir and watch and stir some more and try to judge whether the darn cream stuff is coating my spoon only to discover that I basically have a pot of sweet 'n' creamy scrambled eggs, which is what happens if you don't cook it right. This recipe heats the cream, combines the rest of the ingredients and finishes the cooking in the oven in a "bain-marie", or a water bath. Not sure where that name came from, but it means to place your container in water while it cooks, which makes it cook gently and evenly, perfect for diva custard! 

Makes 8 servings
2 cups heavy cream
6 egg yolks 
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup white sugar
Zest from 1 1/2 limes
Juice from 1 lime (squeeze the other half into a glass of water!)
1 tbsp grated ginger
1/2 cup brown/white sugar mix

If you want to go classic, simply omit the lime and ginger.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and put the kettle on to boil. It's not for tea, just wait and see...
Grate the ginger and lime zest.  

Pour the cream into a medium sized pot and add the vanilla.  Whisk zest and ginger into the cream mixture. Place on medium-high heat until just boiling. When bubbles are forming at the edges, turn off the heat and take the pot off the element. Let sit for 5 min or so to let the flavours meld. 

Meanwhile, whisk together egg yolks and sugar in a bowl.  

Tempering:  This is where it gets fun, but its really the only tricky part. Two things are happening in this step: The first is that you are straining the zest and ginger out of the cream, and the second is that you are tempering the egg so that it doesn't turn to scrambled egg cream.  Which is what will happen if you just dump hot cream into the egg mixture. Do not do this. Capiche?

You may need an extra pair of hands so borrow a friend or relative or rig up something that means you can do it yourself. You basically need to slowly pour some of the hot cream mixture through a strainer into the egg yolk mixture, all while whisking. As, you can see in the photo I clearly got some help since I don't have three hands... Pour in a few tablespoons' worth, whisking well, then pour the rest in slowly while whisking furiously.   

Set 8 ramekins on a deep-set cookie sheet.  Once the mixture is well whisked, pour into individual ramekins, about 2/3 of the way full.

Here is where the boiling water comes in. (No, its not to make crème brulée soup. Gross. Why would you think that?)  Place the pan in the oven and pour the boiling water into the pan until it reaches about halfway up the ramekins. Bake for 20-30 minutes.

They are done when it looks cooked but the middles jiggle slightly when you wiggle the ramekin.  Like how I worked jiggle and wiggle into the same sentence?
Chill in the fridge for a few hours before you are ready to eat. A few minutes before dessert, combine the brown and white sugar in a small bowl. Top each ramekin with a layer of sugars (sorry there is no picture, there were impatient supper-clubers waiting!) and pop under the broiler for 2-3 minutes. When the tops look melted and slightly burnt, remove from under the heat.  Tip: you may need to rotate the pan to burn evenly. Other tip: PUT THE TIMER ON or else you will forget them and they will burn - and not the good kind! You will literally have burnt creams. Not that I'm speaking from experience or anything...

Allow to cool for a couple minutes so your guests don't burn themselves.

Like Amélie, I take great satisfaction in gently cracking the sugar crust with a spoon before scooping up the cream with just enough burnt sugar... mmm I think I have to go make some of this right now.


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