November 4, 2003
Ever since we bought the Oxylaser Blowtorch I’ve been pining for an opportunity to use it. My sister Céline has (at least) as much of a sweet tooth as I do, so I decided to make us Lemon Thyme Crèmes Brûlées for dessert on Saturday.
I found a disturbing number of very different crème brûlée recipes out there, calling for widely discordant oven temp, cooking time and quantities of eggs/cream/sugar. They starred various ingredients for flavor, and I was tempted by several combinations : rosemary and vanilla, cinnamon and orange flower water, as well as a version that included chunks of honey spice cake! As is often the case, I ended up using several recipes for inspiration, choosing the ones I figured should work, and sort of blended several into my own version. For flavor, I decided to use lemon and thyme, which I had on hand and sounded like a promising duet.
And without further ado, my friends, let me share that recipe...
Lemon Thyme Crème Brûlée
- 40 cl whipping cream (use full fat, otherwise the crème will not "take" as well)
- 10 cl milk
- 5 or 6 twigs of fresh thyme
- a teaspoon of lemon zest. I used roasted and ground lemon zest from a jar that I got at a gourmet food store in Paris called Lafayette Gourmet, but you could use fresh and mince it very finely.
- 4 egg yolks
- 80 g sugar
- liberal amounts of cassonade (crystallized brown sugar)
(Serves 4. These have to be prepared the night or the morning before.)
In the oven, I inserted the dripping pan, poured simmering water (a fourth of an inch deep) in it, and preheated the oven to 160°C (350°F).
I brought the whipping cream and milk to a boil (it boiled over of course, I’ll just have to get used to the phenomenon, or pay closer attention), moved the saucepan out of the heat and put in the thyme (from Patricia and Stéphan’s window sill) and lemon zest to infuse for about 15 minutes.
I beat together the egg yolks and the sugar. I strained the cream and milk mixture to get rid of the twigs - but reincorporated some of the zest and thyme leaves - and beat it into the eggs and sugar. I poured the mixture into four shallow crème brûlée ramequins and put them onto the dripping tray in the oven. After about 45 minutes, I took them out (still a little wobbly), left them to cool on the counter, then put them into the fridge.
Right before serving, I sprinkled a nice amount of cassonade evenly on each ramequin. The Blowtorch was fetched and, in a palpably tenser atmosphere, the team was organized : Céline would light the match, Maxence (being the man of the house) would work the torch, and I would – bravely - take pictures. At first the flame kept going out, but once we figured out how the torch worked, boy, did we caramelize the living glucose out of that sugar!
The crème brûlées were delicious. Lemon and thyme work incredibly well, the flavor was very subtle and the sugar layer was caramelized to perfection.
What I will do next time : the cream part was a tad undercooked, so I will try turning off the oven and leaving them in for another 15 minutes to set. I will also try using 30 cl of whipping cream and 20 cl of milk, this should work too and result in a lighter cream. Finally, I will use a little less sugar (maybe 50 g) in the cream, because the sugar crust brings a good deal of sweetness in itself.
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