Crystallized-Ginger Crème Brûlée

This recipe takes the classic crème brûlée and bumps up the flavor with an Asian twist, crystallized ginger. Crème brûlée is a custard that’s baked in the oven, chilled until firm, and finally covered with a thin crackling crust of caramelized sugar.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup whole milk

4 eggs

1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons (about 3/4 ounce) finely minced crystallized ginger

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

  2. Pour the cream and milk into a heavy saucepan.

  3. Place the pan over medium heat and bring almost to a boil.

  4. Separate the eggs, retaining the yolks and slightly beating them.

  5. Whip the egg yolks with 1/4 cup sugar until thickened, about 3 or 4 minutes.

  6. Trickle the hot cream mixture into the thickened yolks, stirring constantly.

    If you add too much hot cream and milk too fast in the beginning, the eggs will scramble!

  7. Stir in the vanilla.

  8. Pour this custard through a strainer into a baking dish.

    Use a 4-cup shallow gratin dish or other heatproof dish (such as a 9-inch nonmetallic pie pan).

  9. Sprinkle half of the minced crystallized ginger over the custard.

  10. Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

  11. Put the custard dish in a baking pan in the oven.

  12. Fill the pan with hot water halfway up the side of the custard dish.

  13. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the custard is just set.

  14. Take the custard out of the water bath and cool to room temperature.

  15. When cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the custard until cold.

  16. Turn on the broiler and set the now-cold custard dish on a baking sheet.

  17. Stir the remaining ginger into the remaining 1/3 cup sugar. Sprinkle this mixture as evenly as possible over the cold custard.

  18. Place the custard about 4 inches from the broiler burner until the sugar begins to caramelize, about 1 minute.

    Turn the dish, if necessary, to melt all the sugar.

  19. Let the custard sit for 3 or 4 minutes, allowing the sugar crust to cool and harden.

You can caramelize the crème brûlée crust an hour or two ahead and refrigerate the dish, well wrapped in plastic wrap, without much loss in crispness to the sugar crust. But don’t push it any longer than 2 hours, or the crust softens.

You don’t want the custard to get warm, so take care not to broil the sugar on top of crème brûlée very long. Some cooks put the custard dish in an ice bath (a larger pan of ice) under the broiler to keep the custard cold.

Tip: Kitchenware stores sell small butane torches just for culinary uses such as melting sugar on top of crème brûlée. The torch gives you more control, so the sugar melts evenly and has less chance of burning. Plus, it’s fun to use!

Per serving: Calories 259 (From fat 176); Fat 20g (Saturated 11g); Cholesterol 170mg; Sodium 29mg; Carbohydrate 19g (Dietary fiber 0g); Protein 3g.

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