April 27, 2010

Lavender -- Not Just for Grandma Anymore

"There's a few things I've learned in life: always throw salt over your left shoulder, keep rosemary by your garden gate, plant lavender for good luck, and fall in love whenever you can"
William Shakespeare

There's this little restaurant in Vancouver called The Italian Kitchen that was one of my favorite places for an awesome meal. And then, one balmy summer evening, the waiter asked if we (the girls and I) would like to see the dessert menu. On a whim we said yes (I don't have a sweet tooth -- at all) and this amazing little dessert caught my eye. Lavender Creme Bruleé. I took a risk (creme bruleé isn't too sweet I reasoned), ordered and have been smitten ever since.

This past winter the girls and I ventured to our spot. When the waiter asked if we'd like to see the dessert menu I said "no need, I'll have the Lavender Creme Bruleé" to which she replied "I'm sorry, we don't carry that anymore." WTF!!! I haven't been back since.

So began my quest for the perfect Lavender Creme Bruleé. And here it is:

1 tbsp lavender flowers (dried)
2 cups heavy cream
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup white sugar
dash of salt
1 tsp vanilla
4 tbsp Grand Marnier (if you want -- gives it a nice hint of orange)
more white sugar for sprinkling on the top to bruleé
4 ramekins

Preheat oven to 300F.

Put alot of water on to boil.

In a saucepan on medium heat, add the lavender to the cream. Bring to a simmer (when you can see steam rising) then remove from the heat. Let it sit so that the cream becomes infused with the lavender scent (you can leave it for quite a while -- in case you forget while you're busy beating the eggs).

In another bowl combine the 3 egg yolks, sugar, salt, vanilla and Grand Marnier.

Now strain the lavender out of the cream and slowly add the hot cream to the egg/sugar mixture. You have to do it slowly (and stir slowly) so that the eggs don't end up curdling. Yuck! Once it's all been combined divide it between the four ramekins.

Place the ramekins in a glass baking dish and place on the middle rack of the oven. Now take the boiling water and slowly pour it into the glass baking dish (you're doing the water bath cooking method -- just like Julia did). Slide the rack back into the oven (good luck with this if your oven is sticky -- water everywhere) and bake for anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes (this will depend on your oven -- mine is closer to 60 minutes). You can tell when they are done if you jiggle one of the ramekins and it seems kind of, well, jiggly.

Remove from the oven and let sit in the water bath until the water cools (so you can stick your finger in it and not have to be rushed to the hospital). Then put them in the fridge to set for at least 4 to 6 hours.

(Sorry, I know this is the painful part, but you really have to do this. The last ones I made I was in too much of a hurry to eat them and only put them in the fridge for about an hour and a half. They came out runny -- they still tasted great -- but they were more like Lavender Creme Bruleé smoothies.)

When chilled enough, sprinkle the top of each with sugar (enough to thoroughly cover the top -- so you can't see the custard) and then get out your blow torch, make sure the smoke detector is working and start bruleéing.

They are amazing! And really quite easy. You will impress you guests. And most importantly, you will impress yourself.

So there Italian Kitchen. Who needs ya?


E said...

What an amazing quote from the Bard!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, sensual & poetic, I love your blog!

Thank you for nice comment on my blog!

Agneta, the swedish one ;)

Sharon McPherson said...

Ye, agree with William, (oooh first name terms lol)

' ...and fall in love whenever you can'

Those lavendar desserts ... OOh! OOh! Look heavenly, and the smell ... sweet and lavendery?

Your next dinner party ... please invite me ... pretty please?

Anonymous said...

thanks for the recipe, it takes me a while but I eventually foolow thru. cheers!