Monday, March 06, 2006

Heaven on a Spoon

Lime and Ginger Crème Brûlée

The inspiration for this dessert comes from the cover recipe of this month’s delicious magazine. I say inspiration because I have been told many times by many people that I cannot leave a recipe alone. I have to muck around and tinker with it. Guilty as charged, and caring less.

The Valli Little version is based on a baked custard that is brûléed later. Uh Uh. Not on my watch. A baked custard gives a certain texture that sort of cleaves in two when confronted with a spoon. I’ve always been of the opinion that a brûlée should be made from the creamier, more homogenous custard that’s, for want of a better descriptor, gloopier and denser. So I used the ingredients from delicious and the method I’m more used to from Stephanie Alexander, which calls for a custard cooked on the stovetop ‘til thick, then chilled in ramekins to have its sugar top incinerated at a later point in time.

700 mls of thickened cream
2 kaffir lime leaves, slightly bruised
1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped

Set this on the stove and scald (bring up to boiling point) then remove from the heat and let the flavours infuse for about 5 minutes. Remove the leaves and pod.

7 egg yolks
¼ cup caster sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
2 tsps ground ginger
1 tsp corn flour ‘insurance’

Whisk the yolks and sugar, but don’t put too much air into them. Add the other ingredients and whisk until combined. (My Great Aunt always taught me to put a little corn flour into a stove-cooked custard as it dramatically reduces the possibility of it curdling if you somehow stuff it up and overheat it). Add the still-warm cream mixture to the yolk mixture, whisking to distribute the heat from the cream. Pour back into the saucepan and stir over a low heat until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Pour into ramekins to within a few millimeters of the rim and leave in the fridge for a few hours to chill and set.

Just before serving sprinkle with a layer of demerara sugar to cover the set custard (actually you can use normal sugar but I find demerara gives a better crust, more depth of flavour, and is easier to work with as it doesn’t burn and blacken quite as readily as white sugar). Now the fun bit for the pyromaniacs among us. Spark up the kitchen flame thrower and gently circle the flame across the top of the sugar to melt it and create a toffee crust. This takes a bit of practice, but once you’ve got the knack it’s easy to do. You can do this a little ahead of time and put the brûlées back in the fridge, but only for a few hours or the toffee crust will soften.

The best fun with a brûlée is to bash in the hard top of the toffee crust with the back of a spoon and get to the smooth, cold, flavoursome custard underneath. The sublime taste of this one is scented with zesty lime along with the the background warmth of ginger. The heady vanilla lifts the creamy sensation of the mouth-soft custard, and is satisfyingly contrasted by ocassional shards of crunchy toffee. It's not just the fabulous taste, it's the textures that help delight the senses. As many would know, I'm no dessert junkie, but even I think this is stupendous. I served it before coffee when we came back to my place after lunch at Il Baretto. No conversation was entered into while everyone consumed this luscious treat, a sure sign of real reverence for a classic dish with a new taste twist.

Gadget alert: Not everyone has a blowtorch, so you can opt to make the toffee crust by placing them under a very hot grill. This will do the trick, but in my opinion, heats up the custard and the ramekin too much. Professional torches can cost between AUD$80-150.00, but Victoria’s Basement has an S&P brand set consisting of refillable mini torch and 4 ramekins on sale for AUD$29.95. Butane to run the torch costs about three to four bucks and lasts for ages. The torch is effective enough for a domestic kitchen and works a treat. At this price, there’s no reason not to have one in your kitchen! Brûlées away!!!


Blogger Ange said...

Yum!!! Really have to get my blowtorch out of the cupboard & whip up one of these myself soon!

10:14 AM  
Anonymous helen said...

omg that sounds and looks good!

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Sue said...

Creme Brulee is my FAVOURITE! Why must you taunt me so!

7:32 PM  
Blogger Reb said...

It's definitely a cut above a normal brulee, Helen & Ange, with those Asian-inspired flavours. You just need to get cracking in the kitchen Sue and whip one up yourself!

8:41 AM  
Anonymous Miss Liss said...

OK, my mouth is positively awash at the mere thought of this dish. Thanks for the tip on that great S & P brulee set. Am SO on my way to Vic's Basement to snaffle a few as birthday presents for fellow foodies

1:21 PM  
Blogger Reb said...

Hey! I should take commission for this! Thanks Miss Liss :)

6:40 AM  

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