Kaffir Lime and Ginger Crème Brûlée

If there is one thing other than sugar that gets my olfactory ticking, it has to be Southeast Asian cuisine; Thai food to be really precise. Give me a bucket of Tom Kha and I am a happy child. There is something magical about the sweetness of coconut milk cascading through the pungency of ingredients like galangal and lemon grass – I find the flavour balance rather intoxicating. In fact, recently, I overate so much at a cute Thai restaurant in Bombay and the evening didn’t end very well, let’s just leave it at that!

As you might have already guessed, I am not writing an exhaustive post on how to make Thai curry. But with all that love for Thai food, I thought I’ll take smatterings from it and infuse  into my favourite dessert, the Crème Brûlée. Much like everything else in life, I realized this late that infusing is such a beautiful technique in cooking. Garlic pods and herbs in olive oil or orange zest in cream, the potential with infusing is endless and the hit of flavour you get is WOW.

A traditional Crème Brûlée calls for cream or even double cream but Raymond Blanc says with milk, the texture of brûlée is lighter, so I decided to go with just milk (whole milk please, no skimmed nonsense). I let the kaffir lime leaves, lemon peel and ginger infuse into a gently simmering saucepan of milk. Can I tell you that the smell is a force to be reckoned with? On that note, dinner today is Tom Kha soup. Bon appétit!

kaffir lime leaf_lemon peel_ginger

Ingredients

  • 4 kafir lime leaves, torn
  • 1 lemon, peel only
  • 3 inch piece ginger, grated
  • 500 ml whole milk
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 50 g caster sugar
  • 50 g demerera sugar

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 140 C. Line a deep roasting pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Add the kafir leaves, lemon peel and ginger to the milk and give it a stir. Bring the milk to the boil and allow it to gently simmer for 5 minutes.

infusing_milk

  • Once the milk has been simmered, take it off heat and set aside. Beat the egg yolks and sugar using a wire whisk until pale and creamy. Add the hot milk into the beaten egg yolks while constantly whisking (you don’t want to curdle the egg yolks).
  • Now pour the prepared mixture into a dish preferably with a stout through a sieve. Once you are down, press the lime leaves, lemon peal and ginger against the sieve so you don’t lose out on the flavours.
  • Place 4 (big) or 5 (small) ramekins into the prepared roasting tin. I used a 5-inch fancy glass bowl. Pour the mixture into bowls evenly. Set a pan of water to boil. Pour the boiling water into the roasting tin till about 1/2 the height of the mixture. Don’t spill any water into the bowl. Essentially, you are about to bake the custard in bain-marie (water bath).
  • Place the roasting tin into the preheated oven for about 35-45 minutes. Your custard is set when the sides are set but the center is still wobbly like jelly.
  • Once set, take the bowls from the bain-marie and allow them to come to room temperature. Now, refrigerate them for at least 4 hours before serving.
  • Once refrigerated, sprinkle about a table spoon of demerera sugar over each bowl. Spread them evenly using your index finger. Caramelize the sugar using a blow torch at a 3 inch distance to get the brûlée effect. When you want to eat it, crack into the brûlée and scoop out a mouthful custard.

kaffir creme 3

Note: A parchment paper is lined to prevent the custard from over cooking. If you want, place the roasting tin into the oven and then pour in the boiling water, that way you don’t have to worry about carrying the tin to the oven. I have given a relatively long range of cooking time for this dish because every oven is different. So when you are close to your finished cooking time, please do the wobble test.

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