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Saturday, May 29, 2010

the end of an evening

To finish off Tott’s end-of-the-first-year-of-law-school dinner, we served a lemon crème brulee that the folks at Briarwood paired with an Elderton Semillon.

We chose crème brulee for a couple of reasons. We’d had several successes in the past. The custard could be made beforehand. And, of course, everyone loves crème brulee and thinks it is fancy.

Lemon Crème Brulee
(makes 8 servings)

2 lemons
3 cups heavy cream
7 Tbs white granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks
½ tsp vanilla
about 8 tsp turbinado sugar
8 crème brulee ramekins
1 blowtorch

Preheat the oven to 325. Make sure the oven rack is in the middle position.

Zest the two lemons and combine the zest with the cream in a heavy saucepan. Stir in the white sugar and a pinch of salt. (Save the zested lemons for juice later.)

Heat the mixture, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat until it is almost boiling. Remove it from heat. Allow it to cool to room temperature, and then cool in the fridge for 2 or 3 hours. (You don’t have to do this step of cooling it in the fridge, but if you do, the lemon flavor will be stronger.)

Remove the cream mixture from the fridge and place it over medium-low heat. Once again, stir occasionally as it warms, and remove it from the heat just before it boils.

Lightly beat the yolks in a heatproof bowl. Gradually whisk in the cream. Just slowly drizzle it into the yolks while you are whisking quickly. This should prevent the eggs from curdling.

Pour the custard mixture through a wire colander to strain out the zest and any cooked yolk. Stir in the vanilla and 1 tsp fresh lemon juice.

Divide the custard evenly among the 8 ramekins.

Arrange the ramekins in a roasting pan. Place the pan on the oven rack, and pour in water until the water level is about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes. The custard will be set around the edges, but the centers should wobble when the ramekins are wiggled.

Carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven. (I bumped the edge of the stove and ruined two custards when the water bath spilled into them. I was able to save two others by carefully soaking up the spilled water off the tops of the custards with paper towels.)

Cool the custards in the water bath for 20 minutes, then chill uncovered in the fridge for 4 hours.

Just before serving, evenly sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the tops of the custards. Use your blowtorch to melt and caramelize the sugar. Keep the torch moving to avoid burning the sugar.

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