Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lavender-Scented Crème Brûlée

I love the smell of lavender, but it is often hard to bake with lavender and make it the star of the show without using excessive quantities. And as lavender can be difficult to obtain in the States and can come at a rather high price, I'd prefer to simply not bake with lavender than to waste it on some new project that isn't guaranteed to be a hit. Until this.

This was just a simple crème brûlée recipe, nothing special. In fact, the only reason why I even have this to share with you is because I was home, at my parents' house, and they had a little carton of heavy cream that was not being used and would have been thrown out it not used for some purpose soon. I abhor throwing out perfectly good food so I looked up some recipes with heavy cream, but everything seemed so involved. Then my mom found this in one of the cookbooks lying around the house. It seemed simple and we had all the necessary ingredients (milk, sugar, and eggs... how hard is that?), so we decided to go for it.

There was just one thing: the original recipe called for orange blossom water, which, honestly, does any regular cook ever have on hand? On a whim, we decided to replace it and use lavender. Since the lavender would be steeped in the milk and cream, not much would be needed, and as there were no other strong flavors involved in this recipe, the lavender could truly be the star. And it was.

This dessert was such a hit, we ended up going out and buying another carton of heavy cream so we could make it again the next night. And the recipe is so incredibly forgiving that when I accidentally added over twice the amount of milk needed the second time around, everything turned out fine. Actually, it was more than fine; it was delightful.

Lavender-Scented Crème BrûléeAdapted from Baking: A Commonsense Guide
236mL (1 cup) whipping cream100mL milk (2% works fine)
62g sugar (granulated works fine)
½ tsp vanilla sugar
10-20 lavender buds
2 egg yolks
1 egg white

pinch of salt (optional)
topping: 3 tbsp sugar

Preheat your oven to 275°F.
Combine the whipping cream, milk, sugar, vanilla sugar, and lavender buds into a pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. If using salt, add at this point.
After the mixture has come to a full boil, turn off the heat and allow the lavender buds to steep for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the egg yolks and egg white with a whisk or hand mixer.

The cream mixture should have cooled down slightly at this point. Strain out the lavender (and any milk solids) and then pour the mixture into the eggs. (I didn’t worry too much about tempering, even though my milk was very hot) Mix/whisk to combine.
Divide evenly into 4 ramekins. Place them in a pan with enough hot water to come halfway up the side of the ramekins.  Put tin foil over the ramekins to "seal them."
Bake for 1hr 15 min in the water bath.
Cool/refrigerate until almost ready to serve.
Before serving, sprinkle each ramekin evenly with the sugar.
Broil on low, watching carefully, for about 1-3 minutes until the sugar has melted and caramelized. (Alternatively, you can use a chef’s blowtorch)
This can be served immediately or can be refrigerated for up to 1-2hrs before serving.
*note: Conversion factors for your convenience: ½ pint = 236 mL = 8 fluid oz. = 1 cup

Also, if you want to use
vanilla extract, add this at to the mixture AFTER the eggs and hot cream mixture have been combined. Do not cook the vanilla extract, as this will dissipate the scent.

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