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March 06, 2013
Never mind that the possibility of snow is still real, there’s a sense that spring is just around the proverbial corner. It’s not only that when the sun hits at just the right angle, the forsythia shows the merest hint of yellow. Or that the blue birds are back and house hunting. Or that I’m hearing chefs talk expectantly of ramps, as sure a harbinger of spring as the robin. It’s that I’ve gone nuts for lavender – romantic, tilting-toward-Provence, coming-soon-to-my-garden lavender. There’s lavender soap in the shower and on the kitchen sink. I’ve ground lavender for cookies. I’ve steeped it to make a syrup. I’ve rubbed it into sugar for pound cake. I’ve got lavender set aside to make caramels. And yesterday I infused milk and cream with lavender – that’s what you see in the picture – and baked beautiful pots de crèmes (recipe below).
Lavender, like so many herbs and spices with strong personalities, is both lovely and tricky – use too much and whatever you’ve made will taste like medicine … or soap. The first time I make a lavender sweet, I use the least amount that I think will give me flavor. If the taste is weak, I call it ‘subtle’ and make a note to up the dose the next time. For the pots-de-crème, I’m suggesting you start with 1 tablespoon, a safe start that should account for varying degrees of freshness and flavor in everyone’s lavender buds. Oh, and you should be using edible lavender buds, not ground lavender. If you want ground lavender for any recipe, grind the buds in a coffee grinder or use a mortar and pestle.
I am in love with the texture of these pots de crème. They’re a cross between custard and pudding, a minor miracle made possible by the addition of white chocolate, and their flavor borders on mysterious. Yes, the lavender is ‘subtle,’ but it’s also haunting.
Here’s the recipe … let me know what you think.
LAVENDER-WHITE CHOCOLATE POTS DE CREME
A note on serving sizes: I used 1-cup ramekins and made 6 servings. You can use smaller ramekins and make more portions, just keep in mind that the baking time might be less.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon edible lavender (not ground), more or less to taste
1 fat strip orange or lime zest, optional
4 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
4 large egg yolks
1 large egg
Pinch of fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Put 1 1/2 cups of the heavy cream, the milk, sugar, lavender and the zest, if you’re using it, in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Stay close – you know milk’s nasty habit of boiling over. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and allow the mixture to steep for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Place 6 to 8 heatproof ramekins (see my note above) in a roasting pan and bring a kettle of water to a boil; keep aside.
Put the chopped white chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Bring the remaining 1/2 cup heavy cream to a boil (you can do this in a microwave), pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seconds. Using a small spatula or whisk and starting in the center of the bowl, stir the cream and chocolate together in increasingly widening circles until you have a smooth ganache.
Bring the lavender cream back to a boil and then immediately turn off the heat.
Working in a large (I use a 2-quart) heatproof measuring cup with a spout, in a pitcher or in a bowl, whisk the yolks and egg together with the salt until smooth. Very, very slowly – as in dribble-by-dribble – strain a bit of the hot cream over the eggs and then whisk like mad. (If you don’t mind dirtying another pitcher, you can strain the cream and pour it from the pitcher over the eggs.) Add about one-quarter of the cream in this drizzle-and-whisk fashion – insurance against cooking the eggs. Whisk some of the hot cream into the white chocolate ganache and add this to the eggs. Then, in a steadier stream, gently whisk in the remaining cream. Discard the lavender and zest. Stir in the vanilla extract.
Rap the pitcher against the counter to debubble the mixture. If you’ve got lots of bubbles, you might want to skim them – they create holes in the custard; not fatal, but not uber-attractive. Pour an equal amount of the mixture into each ramekin and then pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come about half way up the sides of the ramekins. Carefully, slide the roaster into the oven and cover the set-up with a baking sheet.
Bake the ramekins for 40 to 60 minutes (the time will depend on the size of your ramekins) or until they are set. When you tap the sides of the ramekins, the custard should be completely set with maybe just a tiny, jiggly circle in the center. Remove the baking sheet and transfer the roaster to a cooling rack. Leave the set-up intact for 10 minutes and then, carefully lift the ramekins out of the water and onto a rack to cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate the ramekins for at least 2 hours or for up to 1 day before serving.
, white chocolate
Ice Cream, Puddings & Custards
In the Kitchen
| March 6, 2013 8:55 PM
Ahh, spring! On a blustery day like today I can't wait. I've never cooked with lavender before, though I have a canister of edible buds waiting for this very recipe. What a lovely way to bring a touch of sunshine into the kitchen.