Today was The Kid's 14th birthday. If you are a mom with older kids, you understand how surreal this new era is and if you are a mom with little kids, you have no idea, but your time will come. My adorable, chubby little baby now towers over me, wears his father's shoes on his hairy hobbit feet, has to shave his dirty stache and his mile long legs are covered with black man hair. He is still young enough to tell me he loves in his best Issac Hayes' voice every day but old enough that he has a job and does his own laundry.
So, it's his birthday and that means two things will happen for sure - I will have minor heart palpitations over the fact that time is passing like a speeding freight train without breaks and I will be making creme brûlée. Because none of us do birthday cake, we each get to request a dessert of our choosing each year. Some years I have requested a lemon tart from Bonjour Brioche and other years I have been the lucky recipient of a lemon meringue pie, courtesy of my friend Jen of Piccante Dolce. I like to mix it up a bit and so does Shack, who vacillates between flourless chocolate cake and angel food cake with strawberries, but not The Kid. Every single year he asks for creme brûlée without a moment's hesitation. Last year he had a gingered rhubarb creme brulee so this year I had to decide what new and exiting little twist I could throw at cream, eggs and sugar. This is actually his third birthday since I began blogging and this is also my third recipe for creme brûlée. Coincidence? I think not.
I had to increase the volume by 50% since my normal recipe makes about 8 or 9 of my small ramekins and there were going to be 11 of us for dinner. Math is so not my strong point but somehow I managed to figure it out by using a calculator, a divining rod and The Kid's D20 die. Because I was messing with the math, it seemed wise to not muck about with the actual recipe a ton by getting all crazy with changes or additions so, instead, I steaped the cream with some cardamom and lemon zest for a bit of subtle flavour and brightness - both ingredients that would add flavour but wouldn't affect the volume or the magical chemistry that IS a perfect creme brûlée. I am happy to report that, probably thanks to the D20 die, my math was perfect and the end result was a rich, smooth, creamy custard , worthy of any much loved, hobbit footed man child on the anniversary of his birth.
Cardamom Creme Bruleeapprox 12 100ml (3.5 oz) ramekins
3/4 cup sugar + 1 tbls per ramekin
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 litre of whipping cream
6 cardamom pods
zest of half a lemon
preheat the oven to 300F. Pour the whipping cream in a heavy pot. Add the cardamom pods and the lemon zest and heat until it JUST starts to boil. Remove from the heat and let steep for 20. Reheat until it comes just back to the boil (I take it off the heat at the sight of the first little bubble)while the cream is reheating, mix the eggs, sugar and vanilla either in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or in a deep bowl with a hand mixer.Strain the hot cream into a bowl with a spout to get rid of the solids. You want to temper the eggs so put just a little bit of hot cream into the egg/sugar mixture and start to mix on low for a few seconds. Now you slowly start pouring the hot cream into the egg/sugar with the mixer going until it's all in there. Turn the mixer off and if you like, you can restrain it back into a bowl ( I always strain it back into a bowl with a pouring spout) so that you can get rid of any little bits of egg that might have scrambled a bit with the addition of the hot cream.Put your ramekins in a large , deep baking or roasting pan. Slowly fill each ramekin with custard. When they are full and ready for the oven, pour boiling water into the baking pan until the water comes about halfway up the ramekins. Pour carefully so you don't splash water INTO any of the ramekins. Carefully move the big pan full of ramekins into the hot oven, on the centre rack and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the custard is set and still just a little wiggly looking in the very middle.Remove the ramekins from the water bath and let them cool completely on a wire rack and then put them in the fridge until you are ready to serve them. At that time, take them out of the fridge and sprinkle a tbls of sugar evenly over the surface of each custard. Shake it around to make sure it's evenly distributed.Now, you get to fire your handy kitchen blow torch and torch the surface of each custard until the sugar bubbles up and get's all brown. Let them sit for a few minutes to harden and cool.If you like, you can plop a little raspberry or a blackberry on the top of each custard right before you serve them but they are just fine all on their own.