When I was in middle school, my parents took us to our first fancy restaurant: a French restaurant in Union Square called Scala. It was the first time we had steak that was not from Costco and probably the first time we’d ever heard of the term, “shoe-string fries.” Although I will never forget that juicy, perfectly medium-rare filet, the highlight of the meal was dessert. In our broken English, we asked the waiter, “What is recommend?” when he handed us the dessert menu. He immediately pointed to the crème brûlée. So, we ordered one crème brûlée to share between the four of us. That night, our palates changed forever. We fought over the crunchy caramelized sugar on top, scraped the vanilla beans on the bottom of the ramekin with the sides of our spoons, and even contemplated getting a second order.
For many years after that first fine dining experience, crème brûlée was the only dessert we would order. But now that I’ve learned how to make it at home, I’m back to ordering ice cream.
This recipe is based on the ginger and vanilla crème brûlée recipe from Bon Appétit.
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 2 teaspoons dried lavender
- 5 large egg yolks
- 8 teaspoons bakers sugar or granulated sugar, divided into 4 portions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Add whipping cream and sugar to a medium sauce pan. Scrape vanilla beans into the cream and add the entire vanilla pod. Add lavender. On medium heat, stir until the sugar melts. Once the cream reaches a simmer, remove from heat and cover. Steep the lavender in the cream for 20 minutes.
Whisk egg yolks in a large mixing bowl. Try not to produce too many air bubbles – this will help the custard retain a smooth texture. Strain the cream into a clean bowl or large measuring cup to remove the vanilla pod and lavender. While stirring the yolks with a whisk, gradually add the cream. Start very slowly to temper the egg yolks (without turning them into scrambled eggs), and then you can pick up the speed toward the end.
Divide the mixture into 4 (6-ounce) ramekins. Place ramekins in a baking dish at least 3 inches high. Carefully pour boiling water into the baking dish (not the custard!) until the water level reaches ¾ up the height of the custard.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the center barely jiggles when you shake it. Chill the custard for at least 4 hours (this step is super important because it helps the custard set). Right before serving, add 2 teaspoons of sugar to each custard. Gently swirl the ramekin to evenly distribute the sugar. Use a torch to caramelize the sugar until golden brown.