Thursday, July 28, 2011

Raspberry Basil Creme Brulee

I took a trip out to my mothers house the other day; and by trip i mean a 30 minute travel time. She had informed me that her garden was producing and i should gather some produce, so i did! The bounty included, lots of zucchini and lettuce, a bushel of dried parsley and basil! Now for me the rub was basil, what do i do with basil?! its just one of those herbs that I have never had an attraction to. It's not that i dislike it, i just don't know how to use it, other than spaghetti sauce or pesto of course. So there i was, standing in my kitchen wondering.

I dug around in the cupboards for inspiration, then finally as i peered into the fridge i had that aha moment. The raspberry's, i could use the raspberry's with the basil. An interesting concept don't ya think? this new foodie fad of introducing herbs with fruit. why not?! Shortly after deciding to use these two ingredients i thought, Raspberry Basil Creme Brulee!

And these we're my results (minus the caramel shell). I have to say it was surprisingly delicious! There we're a few minor hiccups in the execution but no bid deal, just a lesson for the future, because i will definitely be using this recipe again. I hope you enjoy this lovely combo of the tart berry's, fresh licorice taste of basil and sweet vanilla custard of the Creme Brulee. This dessert makes a great excuse for a special, mid week romantic dinner with the husband by joining it with a glass of Martinelli's or champagne if you prefer.

Just a little side note: A special part of making this dish was the basil simple syrup. I Love the fact that it is so simple, hence the name. But I especially love the fact that you can take the basic ingredients and add to it to make a variety of flavors. This syrup was delicious with a sweet basil taste that seemed to improve with refrigeration and worked perfectly in the creme brulee but would also work well in drinks or other desserts. On a recent trip to T.J. Max I found a lovely little bottle to store this delightful sweetener and i just had to share! 

Raspberry Basil Creme Brule
Adapted from Joy of cooking by Irma Rombauer and Nigella Lawson

For the Basil Simple Syrup:

1 C. Sugar
1/2 C.Water
6 Basil Leaves, rinsed.*

For the Raspberry Basil mix:

21/2 Tsp Basil Simple Syrup
36 + berries (depending on size and amt of ramekins, i used 5-6 berries)
5 or 6 basil leaves, finely chopped (chiffonade)

For the Creme Brule:
2 C. Heavy Cream
1/2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
8 Large Egg Yolks
1/2 C. Sugar

*Use more basil if you prefer a stronger basil taste, mine was a slight basil taste.
*To bake in a water bath place ramekins into a pan lined with a cooling rack, paper towels or dish towels to prevent the ramekins from touching the bottom. make sure the pan allows them to be placed comfortably (without touching each other or the sides). Place onto rack in preheated oven and immediately pour in scalding hot tap water (not boiling, or they'll be custard like mine) until it reaches about half way to 2/3rds up the sides of the ramekins.
* if your creme brule does turn out set too far in from the edges set in an ice water bath to prevent further cooking.

Add sugar and water to small saucepan, stir together. Add in the basil leaves and bring to a boil over med-high heat. Mixing occasionally and bruising the basil leaves with a wooden spoon to extract flavor. Boil for 2-3 minutes, remove from heat, strain over small bowl. Allow to cool to room temperature or more.

Mix together the raspberries, simple syrup and basil leaves in a small bowl. Portion out into ramekins.

Make the creme brulee. Start out by pouring the sugar over the egg yolks, beat until smooth. Heat the heavy cream just until it's about to simmer. Slowly add the cream to the egg mixture (about 1 Tbs at a time) while stirring vigorously; so you don't end up with scrambled eggs! When you've mixed in approximately 1/4 cup of the heavy cream into the egg mixture, transfer it back into the pot with the heavy cream. Pour over a strainer into a medium bowl to remove small lumps; this makes your brulee creamy. Next mix in the vanilla extract then pour custard into 6-8 ramekins (depending on size). and bake in a water bath* at 325 degrees for 30-35 minutes (or until center is still jiggly and outer edges are set). Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Sprinkle with 3 tsp's (1/8 inch deep layer) brown sugar and set on cookie sheet under broiler until brown and caramelized, turning if spots start to burn (like mine, a bit odd looking but still tasty); or if you have a torch use turbinado sugar ("sugar in the raw") and hold torch over each creme brulee, about an inch away from top until browned.

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