I have a confession to make (which is no surprise to those who know me personally), I am quite uncoordinated. I am the person that inexplicably trips, or drops things, or accidentally walks into the door frame. With this in mind, you can understand why the prospect of using a blowtorch in the kitchen sends me into waves of panic. I had visions of somehow setting the kitchen alight, or worse still, setting someone in the kitchen alight.
The potential for serious injury did not actually enter my mind when I planned this dessert. Rather, I was trying to come up with something interesting that could be prepared ahead of time, would be suitable for a girls dinner and acceptable for one guest who is diabetic and therefore appreciates a not too sugary dessert.
I came across this recipe for crème brûlée with a twist in David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert and it ticked all the boxes. The recipe is very simple, although you need to allow a little time to let the ginger and lemon infuse into the cream and you also need to chill the custards completely. I made these the day before and it all worked well.
Knowing Saskia’s difficulties with Crema Catalana I was somewhat concerned that the mixture would curdle in the oven, but thankfully all was fine. My custards actually took significantly longer than the recipe indicated, about 45 minutes rather than 30 minutes (though my oven is a bit temperamental). I pulled them out when the edges were firm and the centre was still a bit jiggly, by the time they had cooled, the custards were perfectly cooked.
When it came time to get the blowtorch out, the panic started to rise, however, there really was no need. I found the best way to caramelise the custards was to use small strokes, manoeuvre the custards by spinning the tray and add a little extra sugar about half way through.
I left the crème brûlées for a minute or two before serving in order to cool slightly and allow the caramel to harden.
The verdict? The custards were silky and had the all important crunchy caramel layer. The lemon and ginger flavour was quite subtle but definitely came through. It was a nice twist on a classic dessert, and I’ll definitely be making them again – blowtorch fears be damned!
Lemon and ginger crème brûlée
Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert
85g fresh ginger, thinly sliced
100g caster sugar plus extra for caramelising
grated zest of 2 lemons
6 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
- Place ginger in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 2 minutes. Pour the water off.
- Add the cream, the 100g of sugar and the lemon zest to the ginger.
- Heat the saucepan until warm (a couple of minutes) then remove from the heat, cover and allow to infuse for an hour.
- Pre-heat the oven to 175C and place 6 ramekins in a roasting dish.
- Remove the ginger slices from the mixture (don’t worry if you remove some zest as well), add the salt and reheat until the cream is quite warm.
- Separately, in a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then gradually add the warm cream mixture in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture through a strainer into a jug.
- Fill the ramekins with the mixture and pour boiling water half way up the sides of the ramekins.
- Cover very tightly with aluminium foil.
- Bake until the outsides of the custards are just set and the centre is still jiggly. Be careful not to overcook and curdle the mixture. It should take about 30 minutes, although my oven is a bit temperamental and it took about 45 minutes for me.
- Remove the ramekins from the baking tray and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate until they are chilled.
- When you are ready to serve, sprinkle a generous amount of sugar on top and caramelise with a blow torch, or under a very hot grill. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before serving.