I made meringue for my buttercream on Friday so I had tons of egg yolks left. I also had heavy cream from the chocolate mousse, some thyme from my last chicken dish and some candied lemon zest I made a while ago. This was perfect for crème brûlee. Whenever I have extra yolks I always think of ice cream but since I made some not very long ago, I decided to go for baked custard.
My former executive pastry chef, Sebastien had me make a delicious lemon and thyme pastry cream for a Christmas buffet a few years ago, so I immediately thought of that and how fantastic it was. We filled mini éclairs with it and they were a hit. This recipe can most certainly be made using fresh grated lemon zest but I just happened to have candied zest and that’s why I am using it.
200 grams water
200 grams sugar
2 lemons, zest peeled and julienned
Make a syrup by boiling the water and sugar together.
In the meantime, peel the lemons and cut the zest in thin strips. Blanch the zest in boiling water for a minute. Discard the water and repeat this process two more times. This allows us to get rid of the bitterness in the zest while we cook it.
Simmer the blanched lemon zest in the syrup for about 15 minutes or until tender. Store the zest in the syrup in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Candied Lemon and Thyme Crème Brûlee
1 liter of heavy cream
10 egg yolks
200 grams sugar
Candied lemon zest cut into very small pieces
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
In a saucepan, boil the cream with the thyme leaves. Let it steep for 10 minutes. Strain the cream and discard the thyme leaves.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar. Temper the hot cream over the yolks and whisk until well mixed. Strain the custard through a fine chinois to get rid of any coagulated egg yolk. Add the candied lemon zest. The candied zest has a tendency to fall to the bottom of the custard after it has been mixed in, so make sure to stir the mix before pouring it into the ramekins.
Place the ramekins we are using on a roasting pan or a sheet pan. Pour the custard into the ramekins and bring them close to the oven. Pour hot water in the roasting pan or sheet pan and place in the oven.
Bake in the water bath at 300ºF until the center of the custard doesn’t giggle when we shake the pan. We are not looking for any color on top of the custard.
Let the ramekins cool a little bit, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours.
When we are ready to serve, sprinkle evenly some raw sugar on top of the custard and burn the sugar with a blowtorch.
I think my favorite part about eating crème brûlee is the moment when I get to tap the burnt sugar top and break it open. It’s just magic, isn’t it?