Creme brulee, or any baked wobbly sweet custard, is one of my favorite desserts to order in restaurants. I don’t know if it’s the soft creamy texture or the hard shell of burnt caramel that’s a perfect companion to the sweet custard beneath, I always linger whenever I see creme brulee on the dessert menu. You’d think that this dessert, with its sophisticated name and presentation, would be complicated and fussy to make. When I started making my own at home many years ago, I surprised myself at how easy and fast this was to make! I thought, “Huh, that’s it!? SO EASY!!?”. This is totally one of those desserts to trick people into believing that you’re a culinary rockstar.
Ever since I picked up a tin of Lavender Sugar from the Spices and Teas store at Chelsea Market, followed by a bag of Lavender flowers for baking from the Union Square Farmers Market, both in NYC, the idea to make Lavender Creme Brulee was firmly planted inside my head for months. I love lavender, of course. But first, I needed to refill my kitchen torch as it was out of fluid and sitting sadly inside my kitchen cabinet for over four years (because no one would/could refill it for me).
One morning I woke up and decided, today’s gonna be the day! I’d march into town (which I hate) and get this kitchen torch refilled, one way or the other. First, I went to a baking supply store that someone had suggested when I asked where I could find butane/propane refill, but was immediately annoyed that the store didn’t have such an item or person. So much for bussing and walking under the scorching sun for several blocks with my head looking up at awnings looking for this place. Ideally I’d find someone who could refill the torch for me and I’d just pay him/her. You see, I have this paranoia that if I were to DIY, I might set something off and cause an explosion. Turned out I had no such luck in
tricking hiring a minion to do the dangerous work, because at the second place I went to – a restaurant supply store, the lady behind the counter pointed to a can of propane and told me I had to do it myself.
Left with no choice, I ended up doing so and with somewhat of a success I’d say, because I have flame again. Hesitant yay. I was (and still am) paranoid, because I was hearing gas leaking out of my kitchen torch for a good three to five minutes or so after I refilled it (or overfilled it). I kid you naught, the whole time I was holding my breath and staring at the torch as I waited for that near-silent hiss to stop. Good thing I have good hearing. Can you imagine if I had turned on the kitchen torch and there was flame, and there was loose propane in the air!!!!??? Not to be overly dramatic or anything, I could’ve killed myself or blown up my kitchen with this propane refilling bizniz! (Fine, I’m being overly dramatic.)
After I had my hardware sorted out, I tackled the soft stuff and put on my nerd hat as I didn’t want to make half a dozen of lavender creme brulees. Who’s gonna eat all that!? I had one tiny box of heavy cream measuring 200ml in my fridge. So I did reverse measurement by figuring out the capacity of my ramekins first, and then worked backwards to see how much wet ingredients I had to use. My flat and 5″ wide ramekin holds 150ml of liquid each, I had planned to make three creme brulees, so with a bit of arithmetic savvy, I ended up with a total of 450ml custard mixture which were perfectly divided into three ramekins. Hur hur, I have sharp ears and I can do math too! (Pardon, inside joke.) Recipe below.
Lavender Creme Brulee
200ml Heavy Cream
100ml Skimmed Milk
3 Egg Yolks
1/3 cup Sugar
1 Tbs Lavender Flowers
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Sugar + 1 tsp Lavender Sugar (for brulee-ing)
Mix heavy cream, skimmed milk and lavender flowers in a medium saucepan and bring to a soft boil. Set aside and let cool for a bit before straining the lavender flowers using a fine-mesh sieve. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar and vanilla until mixture turns happy yellow. Slowly add the cream-milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture and whisk together to blend. Divide this custard mixture into ramekins and place inside a baking pan. Carefully pour hot water into the baking pan to come half-way up the sides of the ramekns. In a 350 degrees oven, bake 45-50 minutes or until set around the edges but still loose in the center. The cooking time will depend largely on the size of the custard cups you are using, but begin checking at a half hour and check back regularly. When the center of the custard is just set, it will jiggle a little when shaken, that’s when you can remove it from the oven. After allowing them to cool, sprinkle sugar and lavender sugar over the top and caramelize using handheld torch.
My kitchen smelled like a spa and I was momentarily soothed by the lavender fragrance while making this, remembering to give thanks that I didn’t die making this. The true climax in making any creme brulee is of course, the brulee-ing itself. I did a short 15 seconds video and posted on my Instagram (FOLLOW!) in hope of scorching everyone else with the sweet linger-itis that this custard dessert induces in me. Here’s to all of ya, creme brulee fans!