Samuel Barrett lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and has far too many hobbies, many of which you can read about here.
Crème brûlée is a well known classic French dessert. What could be more quintessentially French than egg yolks, heavy cream, and sugar all mixed together into a single decadently rich dish?
I'm not one to disparage a classic dessert, but if you have a creative mind and a propensity to tinker in the kitchen, something as simple as this is just asking to be tweaked and customized. Vanilla bean is commonly used in crème brûlée, and I have seen lavender used often, as well—but these two combined with the ultra-savory taste of saffron pushes this dessert over the line from decadent to divine. It's a perfect mélange of subtle yet powerful flavors coming together to create an impressive grand finale to any meal, from classic continental European cuisine to contemporary American styles.
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- 6 tbsp white sugar
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 4 tbsp fine-grained white sugar (or table sugar)
- 3 drops food-grade lavender oil
- 1/4 tsp saffron threads
- 1/2 tsp ground vanilla bean (or vanilla extract)
- 6 (1/2 cup) crème brûlée ramekins
- 1 large glass or stainless steel baking pan
- Pencil torch (optional)
- Baking thermometer
- Large bowl
- Set ramekins into baking pan.
- In a large bowl, beat egg yolks until somewhat thick.
- Add sugar, lavender oil, vanilla bean, and saffron threads. Mix thoroughly.
- Add cream, mix gently, and pour the mixture into ramekins, taking care as to not spill any down the sides or in the water. You want a nice clean presentation here.
- Carefully pour hot water into the pan so it comes half-way up the sides of the custard cups. Make sure to use enough water, but don't overdo it; the water should come up to the level of the custard. Be careful not to spill the water into the custard.
- Place the baking pan in the oven and cook for 25–30 minutes, until internal temperature is about 170 degrees. Remove from oven carefully and let cool 40 minutes. Remove all ramekins from water bath and promptly cover with plastic wrap.
- Chill at least 3 hours in the refrigerator.
- To serve, sprinkle a thin layer of sugar on top of the custard and caramelize with a torch, or put in the broiler (preheated to 500 degrees) for about 1 to 3 minutes until the top is golden brown and hard. You will want to keep a close eye on this last step to achieve a perfect color and hard shell. It takes a bit of practice to know when to remove from the heat source. It will continue to caramelize for a few seconds after being removed from heat, and a few seconds can mean the difference between perfect and overdone or underdone.
- Serve immediately.
The obvious choice to pair with this dessert is espresso. A port or a liqueur would be a little over the top in terms of sweetness, as this dish is sweet enough by itself. Being both bold and somehow still subtle, it is as equally suitable as the ending of a five-course meal as it is a light but flavorful meal such as a goat cheese and beet salad or a grilled chicken dish.
© 2013 Samuel Barrett