These days, I'm only tempted to make creme brulee when I can make it special or unique in some way, like this lemon-flavored creme brulee I made for Valentine's Day yesterday. Again, really no magic here at all. Just shave a healthy amount of lemon zest into your cream and bring it to a simmer.
The original recipe called for dressing up the dessert with some raspberries soaked in liqueur, but I couldn't find any raspberries, so I just served my lemon creme brulee naked, which was just fine by us. The addition of lemon adds a high, clean note of freshness that also cuts against the sometimes cloying sweetness of the custard.
My modifications: I divided the recipe in half, which worked out just fine. And I didn't follow the directions about brown sugar and the broiler, though you can try that if you wanted to. Instead I covered the brulee with white sugar right before serving, then heated it up with a blowtorch. In a minute, the sugar crust had formed.
I could eat this for hours.
Lemon Creme Brulee
(from Bon Appetit)
3 cups whipping cream
5 teaspoons grated lemon peel
3/4 cup sugar
6 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 teaspoons golden brown sugar
2 1/2-pint containers fresh raspberries
1/4 cup Chambord (black-raspberry liqueur) or crème de cassis (black-currant liqueur)
Preheat oven to 325°F. Arrange eight 3/4-cup custard cups or ramekins in 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan. Combine cream and lemon peel in heavy small saucepan and bring to simmer. Whisk sugar and yolks in large bowl until thick, about 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in hot cream mixture, then vanilla and salt. Let stand 10 minutes. Strain custard, then divide among cups. Pour enough hot water into baking pan to come halfway up sides of cups.
Bake custards until just set in center, about 55 minutes. Remove custards from water bath; chill uncovered until firm, at least 3 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.)
Preheat broiler. Place custard cups on baking sheet. Strain brown sugar through small sieve onto custards, dividing equally. Broil until sugar melts and browns, about 2 minutes. Chill until topping is hard and crisp, at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours.
Combine raspberries and liqueur in bowl. Let stand at room temperature at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour. Spoon berry mixture atop custards.