Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lavender Creme Brulee and U-pick Culinary Lavender

Have I mentioned that one of the great things about writing this blog is the people I connect with? I just learned about a lavender farm in King Ferry, outside of Aurora on the east side of Cayuga Lake, that grows 10 varieties of lavender, including subtle culinary varieties. Purple Dog Farm is open for u-pick when the lavender is in bloom and they also sell garlic, onions, and honey.

Doug and Shari Schmidt (one is an expert baker, I hear, formerly working as Bakery trainer for Wegman's and completing pastry arts classes through the Culinary Institute of America) run the farm, and their recipe for Lavender Creme Brulee was recently published in Sarah Bader's book "The Lavender Lover's Handbook." They even use lavender for hash browns, ice cream, and even "a kickin' mustard."

They've shared that recipe with Ithaca's Food Web:

Lavender Creme Brulee

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon dried lavender flowers
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup granulated sugar
extra fine granulated sugar for the topping sugar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Butter (6-ounce) custard cups and set them into a glass baking dish. Cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of newspaper or kitchen cloth to keep the cups from sliding( I use a Silpat silcone baking sheet).

In a saucepan over medium heat, add cream and the lavender flowers; heat just to a simmer. Remove from heat add vanilla and allow lavender flowers to infuse with the cream for 5 minutes. Strain cream mixture through a mesh strainer to remove lavender flowers.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar until light and creamy. Slowly add the strained cream to the egg mixture, blending well.  Strain custard again to remove bubbles in cream as well as any egg that might have cooked during the addition of the cream. Divide custard mixture among the custard cups.

Bring the water for the water bath to a light simmer on top of the stove; carefully pour hot water into the baking pan to come half-way up the sides of the custard cups. NOTE: The most common mistake people make in baking a custard is not putting enough water in the hot-water bath. The water should come up to the level of the custard inside the cups. This protects your custard from the heat.

Bake 45 minutes or until set around the edges (check at 30 minutes) but still loose in the center. The cooking time will depend largely on the size of the custard cups you are using, but begin checking at a half hour and check back regularly. When the center of the custard is just set, it will jiggle a little when shaken, that's when you can remove it from the oven.

Remove from oven and leave in the water bath until cooled. Remove cups from water bath and refrigerate at least 2 hours and use within 3 days.

When ready to serve, sprinkle approximately 2 teaspoons of remaining sugar over each creme brulee. I swirl the dish gently to evenly spread the sugar. For best results, use a small hand-held torch. Hold the torch 4 to 5 inches from the sugar, maintaining a slow and even motion. Stop torching just before the desired degree of doneness is reached, as the sugar will continue to cook for a few seconds after flame has been removed.

If you don't have a torch, place creme brulee 6 inches below the broiler for 4 to 6 minutes or until sugar bubbles and turns golden brown.

Makes 4 to 5 servings (depending on size of custard cups).

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