Monday, May 10, 2010

Strawberry Limeade Créme Brûlée

Yes, it sounds absurd, but you see I had a lot of strawberries and a lot of limes and my idiot brain is prone to run with hair-brained schemes.

As a cap-off to yesterday's Mother's Day spread (Steak Ducasse, thyme potatoes, haricot vert, baguettes, and red pepper pesto) I knew I would be making Créme Brûlée for dessert. Now, I'm not much of a dessert guy, so when I decide I'm even gonna bother, it's a moment of terror.

I've made Créme Brûlée before, so I know it's something I can do, but I didn't want to re-hash the same flavor. To top that off, we did get some very good fresh strawberries from Grow Alabama, and I had a general idea to top them on top of the sugar crust.

But...Créme Brûlée & berries alone is so played. It's the generic presentation. While there's something to be said of simplicity, I wanted to try it different than I've had it a million times over. That's when I remembered the limes we bought to make sparkling limeades (lime juice, carbonated water, sugar, mmmm), and I realized we had a ton left. Since both my wife and my mom are huge fans of Sonic's strawberry limeade drinks, it seemed like a sure thing. Most of this crap is a copy-paste with tweaks from my previous Créme Brûlée, so whatevs

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 3/4 quart heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar + more for the top + more for macerating strawberries
  • zest of two limes
  • juice of two limes
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • About 6 strawberries, sliced
Begin by splitting and scraping your vanilla bean. You can do this with a good pointed knife by jamming it in the middle and pulling on it until it unzips, then turning it around to fully split it. Once split, scrape out the tarry inside of the bean.

Combine the bean and scrapings with heavy cream in your sauce pot. Bring this just to the threshold of a boi and remove from the heat. Cover and let cool completely. Remove the bean and discard. Whisk in the eggs and sugar, and add your lime zest to the cream.

Preheat the oven to 325. Get 4-6 ramekins and fill them with the cream. Put into a casserole dish and add hot water until it reaches halfway up the ramekin sides. Cover with foil. Bake for about 50 minutes or so, or until just barely set.

Cover and refrigerate a few hours, or up to a couple of days. About 30 minutes prior to eating, remove from the fridge. Dust enough sugar on the top to coat evenly. Using a blowtorch (you do have one, right? Get one!) start running the tip of the cone of blue flame around the surface of the ramekin. Turn as you apply heat. Avoid buring sugar. Keep your flame moving and your sugar moving. Work outside in.

When you're done, you should have a nice sheen of caramel-colored sugar armor on top of your custard.

From here, add sugar to the lime juice until it's fairly thick, then add your strawberry slices. This is called maceration. By putting your fruit into a very sugary mix, you will both soften the strawberries and also leach some of the strawberry juice into the sugar-lime syrup.

Last thing to do is to spoon some syrupy strawberry slices on top:

This was an awesome idea. The lime zest in the custard meets the lime juice on top and the strawberries and the acid punches through the fat in the custard. Feels very light.

It was a great end to the Mother's Day lunch. Mom loved it, and after that, we sat around enjoying some french pressed coffee and listened as my wife played some tunes on the piano. Happy Mother's Day, mom.

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