Spring weather is finally here! We’ve arrived at that sweet spot in the season where I can throw open the windows and let the fresh air flow through, and it’s not so hot that a little baking will heat up the whole apartment. My oven is seeing fewer pots for braising, and more muffin tins and sheet trays these days. I’ve been on a citrus kick recently and I’m fueled by an economy-sized bag of limes from Costco that I’ve nearly finished in about a week.
I’ve also been doing a bit of spring cleaning in the cupboards and stumbled across some lavender sugar I made last fall as I pulled up roots in preparation for our move out East.
In some of my earliest posts on Beth’s Bites, I spent a lot of time finding uses for the explosion of herbs coming out of my garden. At one point, I had so much lavender, the best I could do was hang them to dry and store them in glass containers for future use. Right before the move, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and combined some of the lavender with some extra sugar I had laying around. I stirred them together, bottled it up, and packed it away. When we moved to our new place in Vermont, it got shoved in the back of the cupboard and wasn’t removed again until earlier this week. It was beautifully fragrant, but I couldn’t think of a good use for it. Until I did.
Citrus Lavender Creme Brulee
I’ve played around with lavender creme brulee before, but it always seemed a bit one-dimensional. It was light and floral, which was OK, but I wanted a bit more depth. As it turns out, a little zest was exactly what this dessert needed. When you take a bite, citrus dances on your tongue while the aroma of lavender floats through your sinuses. The initial crunch of caramelized sugar gives way to a creamy custard that melts in your mouth. It’s a dessert to engage all of the senses.
You can make your own lavender sugar by combining about a cup of sugar and 2 tbsp of food-grade lavender buds and let that sit for at least a week. The longer the better. If you want to enjoy this a little sooner, you can steep 1 tsp of buds with the lime zest as you’re heating the cream.
6 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups cream
zest from 1 lime
1/2 cup lavender sugar + extra for caramelizing at the end
Pre-heat the oven to 300.
In a medium saucepot, bring the cream and zest to a simmer over medium heat.
While that is heating, whip the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl until the sugar has dissolved and the yolk is pale and thick
Once the cream comes to a simmer, remove it from the heat, and strain into a bowl. Slowly pour and whisk the hot cream in to the egg and sugar mix to temper the custard. At this point, dip a spoon into the custard. If it’s thick enough to coat the back, you’re ready to move on to the next step. If it’s still a bit thin, return the custard to the same saucepot you used to warm the cream and heat on low, whisking constantly, until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and hold a line when you draw your finger across it.
Pour the custard into the ramekins of your choice. Size doesn’t really matter as long as you fill them to approximately the same depth.
Place the filled ramekins in a deep roasting pan and place on a rack in the middle of the oven. Fill the pan with hot water until it reaches about halfway up the side of the shallowest ramekins. Bake for approximately 30-40 minutes, or until the custard sets. Just give the roasting pan a jiggle to check. If the custard sloshes around, let them go longer. If they jiggle like firm Jell-O, they’re ready!
Remove the pan from the oven, then using tongs, place the ramekins on the countertop to cool. Once cool to the touch, about 30 minutes, place them in the fridge for at least 2 hours to firm and completely cool before serving.
To brulee, sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of lavender sugar on top of the cooled custards and tip the ramekin in all directions to coat.
You can use a kitchen torch or a broiler to brown the top, just keep in mind that if you are using the broiler, you want to be careful not to heat up the custard too much. Place the ramekins as close to the heat source as possible, and don’t leave it in for more than 45 seconds!
I hope you all enjoy this as much as we did! See you next week.