Ah, crème brûlée, I remember you well. I first tasted you on a big-girl date wearing big-girl heels and blue eye shadow. We were so young (and so regrettably unfashionable) then, weren’t we? And now, that boyfriend-turned-psycho is but a distant memory and I’m no longer a size 2, yet and yet, you’re still with me, after all this time. How nice of you…
You know, I’m a self-professed vanilla custard purist. I don’t go for the lemongrass/thyme/verbeena/yuzu/sha la la la/sha la la la- infusions. I want plain, vanilla bean custard – c’est tout. But, for no apparent reason, I bucked all that and made crème brûlée with one of my favorite flavorings – pandanus (Lá Dứa.)
Pandanus is a fragrant, green leaf, sometimes referred to as Asian vanilla because of its sweet, earthy perfume. Vietnamese recipes call for steeping the leaves in coconut milk, soy milk, silken tofu or sticky rice for various dessert dishes. It can also be used in savory dishes where it is steamed with jasmine or basmati rice or as a wrapper for fish, seafood or meat. I don’t know how to best describe its flavor and perfume but I know it’s one of my favorite scents. (If, by chance, anyone has the Dior or Chanel hookup, a pandanus-scented perfume would be really awesome.)
I’m very, very pleased with the flavor of this dessert and my heretical leap. The pandanus flavor was not too strong or overpowering as I was fearing but just enough to make me want to hair spray my bangs and wear a cropped, pink tank top all over again. It’s that good.
PANDANUS CRÈME BRÛLÉE – KEM NỨỚNG LÁ DỨA
adapted from Donna Hay’s Modern Classics Book 2
INGREDIENTS (6 servings):
- 4 cups (1 L) cream [I used Calder's]
- 7 pandanus leaves (if fresh is not available, you can find these in the freezer — oftentimes near the frozen banana leaves at many Asian grocery stores) — tied into a knot.
- 8 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup (225 g) superfine sugar
- 1/4 cup (112 g) superfine sugar (for the topping)
Preheat the oven to 300F (150C). Place the cream and pandanus leaf bundle in a saucepan over low heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Set aside for 20 minutes.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until well combined. Slowly pour over the cream mixture to the saucepan and stir over medium low heat for 6-8 minutes or until thick enough to coat the pack of a spoon. Remove the pandanus leaves and strain the mixture into 6 x 3/4 cup (each 6 fl. oz/185ml) capacity ramekins. Place the ramekins in a baking dish and pour in enough hot water to come up halfway up the side of the ramekins. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the custard is set. [You can test by gently wiggling the ramekin - the outer edge should be almost set and the center should jiggle like Jell-O]
Place the ramekins on a baking tray, sprinkle with the extra sugar and allow to stand for 2 minutes. Place ice cubes in the tray around the ramekins, place under a preheated broiler and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the sugar is melted and golden.
Check out these blog posts:
Crème brûlée with Jen’s amazing step-by-step photos at Use Real Butter
Crème brûlée from Nordljus
Crème brûlée from WhatsForLunchHoney