Lavender is an edible flower used occasionally in Meditteranean cooking but not nearly enough if you ask me! Here, I use this uniquely flavored herb to elevate ordinary crème brûlée to an unforgettable finale to a romantic dinner. Although its flavors are complex, this lavender crème brûlée recipe is surprisingly easy to make, not to mention delicious.
Cooking with lavender
When people talk about cooking with lavender, they most often mean the purple flower buds, although lavender leaves can also be used in cooking. In this lavender recipe, I generally use the dried flower buds however, you can use fresh lavender flowers for this dessert recipe if they are available.
If you are going to purchase dried lavender to use in this custard recipe, make sure you purchase culinary-grade lavender.
Lavender, particularly dried lavender, can be tricky to use in cooking because of its powerful aroma and flavor. Be sure to measure it precisely because too much of this dried herb will overwhelm the crème brûlée’s delicately sweet, faintly eggy flavor.
An easy crème brûlée recipe you can make at home
To those who don’t frequently bake, crème brûlée can seem like an intimidating dish, best left to professional chefs. But with a little attention to technique, this impressive cream custard dessert is surprisingly easy to make.
I created this recipe as the finish to a lavender-themed romantic dinner. Yes! I created a whole dinner to feature this stunning, Mediterranean flower. You can read about the whole menu and get some of my tips on cooking with lavender in this article, Cooking with Lavender for a Romantic Dinner.
That being said, this dessert is built on the foundation of a great crème brûlée recipe. And if you just want a reliable burnt custard recipe, you can always make this one without the lavender. It will still be a great dessert.
What is a crème brûlée?
If you’ve never made this custard dessert, you might be wondering what it is and how, exactly it is made. The dessert is a centuries-old, French custard that is slowly cooked in a water bath. It is a technique-driven dessert. So although it is fairly easy to make, it is one that requires you follow the directions closely.
Crème brûlée technique
There are basically three steps to making any crème brûlée. The first is to make the custard base. And this is where the lavender comes in. The dessert gets its lavender flavor from steeping the lavender flowers in heavy cream. Do not leave the lavender in the cream for more than a few minutes or you might end up with a heavy, floral perfume.
Also be sure to strain the cream through a fine-mesh strainer to ensure that you remove all of the lavender buds before continuing to make the crème brûlée base.
The second step is to bake the custard in a water bath. For this, you will put the custards into individual ramekins or custard cups. (You can even use sturdy mugs if you don’t have anything else.) Just make sure to divide the cream mixture evenly between the dishes.
What makes crème brûlée so popular is the namesake brûlée, or candy shell crust on top. A fabulous trick of the kitchen, this crust is achieved by simply sprinkling sugar of the top of the cooked custard then heating it until it melts. When it cools, it reforms as a hard shell, which cracks when tapped with a spoon.
To make the shell, you either need a small kitchen torch, (sold in most kitchenware stores), or you will need to put the custard under the broiler and watch it carefully to melt the sugar without overcooking the dessert.
How lavender helps make this a romantic dessert
As you probably already know if you’re a frequent visitor to this site, lavender is an aphrodisiac with a great folkloric history and some interesting healing properties. For this recipe, you can use either dried or fresh lavender to get your aphrodisiac results. I can’t promise that this dish will get you to second base but it definitely has helped me impress some potential suitors in my past.
Lavender Crème Brûlée
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 tbsp dried lavender flower or 2 tablespoons fresh
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/8 cup granulated white sugar
- 2 tsp granulated white sugar to caramelize the crème brûlée tops
- Preheat oven to 300°. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the cream and lavender to a gentle boil. Remove from heat and allow the lavender to infuse with the cream for about 3 minutes.
- Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until light and creamy. Remove lavender from cream. Slowly pour the cream into the egg and sugar mixture, blending well.
- Divide mixture between 2 ramekins or custard cups. Place them in a pan and carefully fill the pan with warm water, until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake custards until set around the edges, but still loose in the center, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven and leave in the water bath until cooled. Remove cups from water bath and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days.
- When ready to serve, sprinkle one teaspoon of sugar over each custard. Melt the sugar with a small hand-held torch or place under broiler. Re-chill custards for a few minutes before serving.
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