While searching for some interesting recipes I came across this recipe for Lemon Creme Brulee in Falling Cloudberries - a beautiful book by Tessa Kiros (as is her other book that I have - Apples for Jam). I love creme brulee and fancied an opportunity to dust off my blowtorch, however I have to admit that this recipe came a bit close to being a disaster as I had trouble with it every step of the way! Luckily it tasted fantastic (I loved the syrupy lemon hiding at the bottom) and I will definitely be giving myself another opportunity to fine-tune it.
To start with, when making the lemon syrup I don't think I left it long enough before I added the lemon segments and they dissolved to mush before the syrup had thickened enough. I nearly binned it and started again but it tasted great so I persevered with what I had.
Secondly, I cooked the custard for ages but it never quite thickened up as much as I would have liked. Even though it firmed up in the fridge a bit, the heat from the blowtorch turned it almost to liquid again (as you can see in the picture below). Next time I think I'll try baking it in the oven rather than cooking it on the hob (see the link below for an alternative recipe).
Finally, the first couple of attempts to create the brulee with the blowtorch were stressful to say the least as the sugar insisted on going from raw to black in seconds. The next day I did what I should have done at the start and searched on google for some precise instructions. I found a video that gave me all the information I needed and finally I got the result I wanted on the last pot. The suggestion to put the sugar on in two layers is a stroke of genius and that, together with being a bit less heavy handed with the blowtorch, gave me a perfect layer of crunchy caramelised sugar.
You can find the link to the video here.
Lemon Creme Brulee
(adapted from Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros)
3 tablespoons caster sugar
500ml double cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthways
8 egg yolks
125g/4 1/2oz caster sugar
100g/3 1/2oz caster sugar
1) Finely grate the zest from one of the lemons and set aside. To fillet the lemons, cut the top and bottom from both of them. Sit the lemons on a board and, with a small sharp knife, cut downwards to remove the skin and pith. Remove the segments by slicing between the white pith. Remove any pips and discard the lemon "skeleton".
2) Put the 3 tablespoons of caster sugar in a small saucepan with 125ml/1/2 cup of water and the lemon zest. Bring to the boil and boil for a few minutes until the syrup thickens and becomes lightly golden. Add the lemon fillets and simmer for a few minutes more until thick and syrupy. Remove from the heat and leave to cool a little. Divide among six 185ml/3/4 cup ramekins and put in the fridge.
3) To make the custard, put the cream and vanilla bean in a heavy-based saucepan and bring to just below boiling point. Turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes, then remove the vanilla bean, scraping the seeds into the cream with the point of a knife.
4) Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl for 2 minutes until thick and creamy. Whisk a ladleful of cream into the yolks. Then pour in all the cream, mixing it well, and return the whole lot to the pan, over the lowest possible heat. Whisk almost continuously to keep moving the heat around for about 10 minutes, or until you notice the custard thickening. It should make ribbons when you whisk. Take care not to let the custard get too hot or the eggs will split - if they do quickly take a hand-held mixer and puree on full power for a couple of minutes.
5) Pass the custard through a fine sieve into a cold bowl (I left out this part) and continue whisking to prevent the eggs cooking further. You can also hold the bowl in a sink filled with cold water while you whisk. When the custard is quite cooled, ladle it into the ramekins, not filling them too full and trying not to send the lemon syrup everywhere. When they are completely cool, cover with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge for a few hours before serving.
6) Sprinkle a thin layer of sugar over the surface of the custard so it is just covered. Put under a hot grill or use a kitchen blow torch to carefully melt the sugar without it burning. Leave to cool for a few minutes then repeat with another layer of sugar.