This dessert is quintessential comfort food - timeless and uncomplicated in ingredients and technique, yet soothing and elegant in results. Many cuisines have a version of a Crème Brûlèe (which means burnt cream in French) in their repertoire. Essentially consisting of a rich custard covered with a layer of sugar, the sugar topping is burnt with either a blowtorch or under an oven grill, leaving a hard caramelized top. Typically, the cream custard is vanilla infused, but it can also have other flavors such as ginger, coconut, chocolate and espresso.
This recipe for Lemon Crème Brûlée is dedicated to Sofie. I promised this recipe when we visited Sofie and her family last summer in Denmark, and I made it for dessert one evening. At the time I did not take a photo, so I promised I would post about it when I returned home and had a chance to take a photo to accompany the recipe. Hard to believe it's taken this long to make a Crème Brûlée, but finally here it is.
In this recipe I added lemon zest to infuse the cream with a little taste of spring. For those of you, including Sofie, who are interested in a vanilla crème brûlée, simply omit the lemon zest.
Lemon Crème Brûlée with Raspberries
2 cups (500 ml.) whipping ccream
3 teaspoons grated lemon peel from untreated lemons
1/2 vanilla bean, split
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons granulated sugar
3 teaspoons golden brown sugar
1 pint (125 grams) fresh raspberries
Candied Lemon Peel (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.)
Arrange six 3/4 cup custard cups or ramekins in a rectangular metal baking pan.
Combine cream, lemon zest, vanilla bean with its pulp in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 15 minutes. Discard vanilla bean.
Whisk egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until thick and lightened in color. Slowly whisk in cream. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve into another bowl. Ladle or pour cream mixture into ramekins. Pour enough hot water into baking pan to come halfway up cups.
Bake until custards are just around edges, but still wobbly when moved, about 35 minutes.
Remove pan from oven. Transfer ramekins to a rack and cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.
Combine remaining sugars in a bowl. Divide evenly over each custard. Light a mini-blowtorch and hold the flame 2-3 inches from the top of the custard, slowly moving it back and forth over the custard until the sugar melts and turns a deep golden brown. (Alternatively, place custards on a baking sheet. Place under a pre-heated oven grill. Grill until sugar melts and turns a deep golden brown, about 1-2 minutes.)
Allow to sit 10 minutes while topping hardens. (Can be chilled, uncovered 1-2 hours before serving.)
Serve garnished with fresh raspberries and Candied Lemon Peel.
Candied Lemon Peel:
Makes about 1/4 cup
2 cups (500 ml.) water
2 cups granulated sugar
Peel skin from lemons with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Try to get as little pith (white underlayer) as possible, because it is bitter.
Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add lemon peel. Boil until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove peels from water. Add sugar to water. Bring water to boil. Add lemon peel and boil until transparent. Drain and cool.