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Meyer Lemon & Thyme Crème Brûlées

March 15, 2009

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Ever since eating at the Still River Cafe last weekend and sampling the rosemary-infused crème brûlée, I’ve had brûlée on the brain. And while Meyer lemons are not local, they’re in season (somewhere, albeit not Ithaca) and I knew I wanted to incorporate their sweet, floral flavor into an early spring version of crème brûlée. Thyme is a natural pairing with lemon, so I decided to infuse the cream mixture with a few sprigs of the herb along with the lemon zest.

mise en place

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Crème brûlée is one of the easiest desserts to make, in my opinion, and there’s nothing that compares to how deliciously creamy and light on the tongue it is. Heat the cream, infuse it with your flavorings, temper the warm mixture into a few egg  yolks, pour into ramekins and bake in a water bath (bain-marie) for a little while. Simple simple.

temper the yolks with the warm cream

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bake in a water bath

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they’re done when they’re set on the edges but still wobbly in the centers

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Making these this time made me realize, however, that I need to invest in a small propane torch to caramelize the sugar on top. Putting the custards under the broiler is okay, and it’s what I’ve been doing for the past few years, but the sugar melts unevenly so you can end up with a few little burnt spots. This time, B saw me prepping the dishes to caramelize the sugar and ran down to the basement to get his heavy duty blowtorch. And yes, we tried using this blowtorch on one of the brûlées. Let’s just say there’s a reason the crème brûlée torches are smaller and less powerful — the sugar on the blowtorched brûlée went from raw to burnt in a few seconds! Yikes. A worthy experiment, but not ideal. Luckily, we could scrape it right off and start over, broiler-method style.

luscious, creamy and light with a nice crackly sugar topping (even if there were a few little burnt spots)

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So these brûlées are absolutely delicious, creamy, just sweet enough, and pleasantly flavored with a light hint of lemon and thyme. We’ll be making them again and again this spring — I just know it.

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Meyer Lemon & Thyme Crème Brûlées

an Eggs on Sunday original

Meyer lemons are sweeter and more floral than regular lemons, but if you can’t find them, regular lemons would be just as delicious.

View printable recipe

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
zest of 1 Meyer lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
2 sprigs thyme
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar, plus more for the tops of the custards

Directions

Place 4 ramekins in a deep baking dish and set aside.

Bring the cream, milk, lemon zest and thyme to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover, and let the mixture steep for 30 minutes. After it’s steeped, heat it back up just to a simmer and then strain it into a liquid measuring cup.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar. Whisking continually, gradually pour in the cream mixture little by little (this will temper the egg yolks.) Once it’s all incorporated, pour the mixture back into the liquid measuring cup. Divide the custard mixture among the 4 ramekins, and pour enough boiling water into the baking dish to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake at 325 degrees F for 40 minutes, until the edges are set but the middles are still wobbly. Remove the pan from the oven, then carefully remove the ramekins from the hot water and place on a cooling rack. Let them cool until they’re almost at room temperature, then cover the ramekins and place them in the refrigerator to cool completely.

When you’re ready to serve them, sprinkle a layer of sugar on top of the brûlées and place the cups under the broiler for a few minutes, until the sugar is melted and caramelized (keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.) Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2009 8:49 pm

    Mmm, what fabulous flavor combinations. You’re right: very few things compare to the delicious creaminess of creme brulee. And I just love how dainty and perfectly carmelized yours look!

  2. March 16, 2009 5:58 am

    They look beautiful Amy! Last winter I had the luck of having a Meyer Lemon tree in my backyard & it is on of my favorite fruits to integrate into desserts – I can see how the rosemary would be a lovely pairing.
    I use a small propane torch from the hardware store and it works great – I think the culinary ones tend to be more expensive.

  3. March 16, 2009 6:03 am

    oooo lovely, one of my all time favourite desserts!!

  4. March 16, 2009 7:18 am

    Thanks Elyse and Rachel!

    Sue – so lucky!! I would love to have one of those trees in my backyard. What a great tip about just getting one at the hardware store; thank you! I’m definitely going to look into that.

  5. Victoria permalink
    March 16, 2009 9:34 am

    Oh goodness. So amazing. Creme brulee is my absolute favorite dessert.

    http://theidleloaf.wordpress.com

  6. emielli permalink
    March 16, 2009 3:43 pm

    Sounds delicious. I made just a basic creme brulee for Valentine’s Day, and I was amazed at how simple it was. I can’t wait to try this recipe, the lemon and thyme will be delicious.

  7. March 16, 2009 10:52 pm

    Amy, I love herbs with fruit, just underrated combinations in general. Thyme and lemon sounds just wonderful. You’re so very very creative!

  8. March 17, 2009 2:13 pm

    What a beautiful creme brulee.

  9. March 17, 2009 4:16 pm

    Hi! I’m happy to have found your blog and your little creme brulees. They look gorgeous and I’m sure they tasted even better! I love creme brulee. YUM!

  10. March 17, 2009 8:59 pm

    Those are beautiful! Congrats on creating such a beautiful and dainty spring-like dessert.

  11. March 19, 2009 10:49 am

    Oh my…this looks divine. I can’t get enough of crem brulee. Great photo!

  12. March 19, 2009 3:36 pm

    Love the fact that you tried using a heavy duty blowtorch–now THAT is being resourceful. And hey, it might have worked out great and you’d never have known without trying, right?

    Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    Dan
    Casual Kitchen

  13. Katey permalink
    March 20, 2009 10:53 am

    Those look amazing! Definitely being added to my list of things to make. I have yet to make individual creme brulees – we usually make the custard, then spoon it onto spoons then torch for -literally- bite sized desserts. I really need to try new flavors though.

    And we’ve also had great success using a simple hardware store blow torch.

    BTW – recently finally got around to making the brown butter brown sugar cookies, yum! Thanks for your wonderful website, keep it up!

  14. March 29, 2009 8:28 pm

    I am having a Meyer Lemon round up this week if you would like to submit.

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