This is part 3 in (what has become) my occasional series, "How to do Stuff," (part 1 being "How to Spend a Year in Australia" and part 2 being "How to Replace a Broken Car Window"). Today's installment: Lavender Creme Brulee!
I got to taste this astoundingly delicious concoction at a friend's wedding in June, and when the opportunity arose a couple of weeks ago to actually make creme brulee (my first time), I insisted that it be with lavender, just for kicks. Here's what you need:
- Just over 1 quart of heavy whipping cream (40% if you can get it)
- The yolks of 6 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 packet of vanilla sugar
- A whole mess of lavender (I had a mixing bowl full of it)
Step 1: Soak the lavender in the cream for a couple hours, at room temperature. This step is done to taste, but remember that the baking process will further enhance the flavor. Once you can taste the lavender in the cream, you're good. I helped the process along by squishing up the lavender a bit with a potato masher, because I was worried there wouldn't be enough flavor. The bonus I got for my squishing efforts was the little pieces of lavender floating in the cream afterwards, which was just adorable, so I left them in.
Step 2: Separate the yolks from 6 eggs, again at room temperature. There is no picture of this. This was my first time separating eggs, so it was a little scary. My word of advice: be careful not the let the yolk get punctured by the sharp edges of the shell. Don't get too happy with the flipping back and forth, this will lead to yolk breakage. Ack!
Step 3: Cream the yolks and all the sugar in a mixing bowl. Use and electric mixer and blend and blend and blend. Do this until you can't see the individual grains of sugar any more. It will take more than 10 minutes, so be patient. The result will be super-fluffy and you will be pleased.
Step 4: Bring the lavender-infused cream to a boil, remove from heat, and let sit for 15 minutes. Doesn't "lavender-infused cream" just sound romantic and delicious? I feel like I work at some upscale restaurant, even though this all happened in my friend's kitchen.
Step 5: Combine the cream and eggs/sugar mixture slowly. Be sure to do this a little at a time while constantly stirring. We don't want the cream (which is still pretty warm) to cook the eggs at all, so it's important to keep the stuff moving.
Step 6: Fill your ramekins nearly to the top. This recipe filled up eight of these, which are about a pint each. So cute!
Step 7: Place the ramekins in a roasting pan filled with enough water to go halfway up the sides of the ramekins. This step allows the creme to bake evenly and not scorch on the edges.
Step 8: Bake for ~45 minutes, or until the cream is set, but still trembling in the middle.
Step 9: Remove from oven and chill in the fridge ~2 hours. This step is done when the custard at the center of the dishes is firm to the touch, but has about as much give as the flesh on the underside of your arm.
Step 10: Sprinkle each ramekin with a light dusting of sugar (baking sugar works best) and melt it with a torch. This step can be repeated if you like a really thick brulee crust (like I do!). I used raw cane sugar for this step, which tended to burn before it even melted. It smelled like marshmallows.
Step 11: Enjoy! You're ready to eat as soon as the melted sugar on top hardens. Break out your teaspoon and get cracking! Ahh, this reminds me of one of my favorite movies: Amelie.
My taste-testers said they found the lavender flavor too strong, though I liked it. Evidently, lavender is a mild anesthetic, and eventually it will numb your taste-buds. The first bite is still fantastic, though! I will infuse the cream a little less next time. My next attempt at flavor-infused creme brulee will be with roses, which sounds exciting. I'd also like to try clove and lemon.