Simple, but perfectly sweet, creme brûlée is an elegant dessert especially when the custard is steeped with vanilla beans and ginger and topped with mango.
By Susan Knaap
Creme brûlée, to me, is the quintessential dessert. Simple it may be, but when made well, I don’t think anything beats it. I’ve always maintained that the vanilla version is the best… that is till now. Because, as I’ve discovered, creme brulee steeped in vanilla as well as ginger and then topped with mango is something rather extraordinary.
There’s the same silky custard lying in wait beneath the glass-like veneer of burnt sugar. But it’s the marriage between the warm ginger and the sweet vanilla that’s so surprisingly good. And when soft mango, doused in stem ginger syrup, is added into the mix a star is born.
- 500ml (17 ounces) heavy cream
- 100ml (3.4 ounces) full cream milk
- 1 vanilla pod
- 2 Tbsp finely peeled and chopped fresh ginger
- 6 egg yolks
- ⅓-1/2 cup sugar (to taste)
- ⅛ tsp (pinch) salt
- Caster sugar (superfine sugar) for topping
- 425g (15 ounces) can (or thereabouts) of fresh mango in syrup
- Approx. half a ball of stem ginger, finely chopped
- Approx. 1 Tbsp stem ginger syrup
- Pre-heat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Fill your hot water jug with water and put onto the boil.
- Pour the cream into a small saucepan. Add the seeds from the vanilla pod and the pod itself, as well as the chopped ginger and heat gently (it doesn’t need to be stirred) until it scalds, just short of boiling. Take off heat and put aside.
- Place the egg yolks, first measure of sugar and salt into an electric mixing bowl and beat until the mixture is thick and pale (a couple of minutes).
- Using a whisk now, pour the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture – add just a little at first to temper the mixture so the eggs don’t curdle, then whisk gently for about 5-10 seconds. Pour the remainder of the cream in carefully as you continually whisk – don’t over-whisk though, as it will aerate the mixture and create foam. Pour the mixture through a sieve into a pourable jug to remove the ginger and the pod.
- Put 6 ramekins into a roasting pan (it’s helpful to have a tea-towel folded in the pan to ensure the ramekins don’t slip about). Carefully pour the custard into the ramekins, leaving about a centimetre at the top of each. You may need to scoop off any surface foam.
- Now put the roasting pan into the oven (middle rack), but just before you push it all the way in, carefully pour in the jug of boiled water to fill to about halfway up the sides of the ramekins (take care not to splash water into the ramekins themselves). Now push the roasting pan fully into the oven. You may or may not like to place a piece of silver foil loosely over top if you’re worried about the custards getting too hot, however it’s usually not needed and it will slow cooking time.
- Cook the custards until, when lightly shaken they jiggle in the middle (depending on the oven and the size of the ramekins, this can take anywhere from 35-45 minutes). Don’t leave them until they’re firm, or they’ll turn out rubbery. Remove the roasting pan from the oven, carefully remove the ramekins and place them on a wire rack to cool.
- Once completely cooled, put the custards into the fridge (you can lightly place a piece of silver foil or plastic wrap over top) and chill for at least four hours (but preferably overnight).
- Drain the can of mango of excess syrup. Dice the mango and place in a small bowl. Add the finely chopped stem ginger and stem ginger syrup and gently combine. Refrigerate until needed.
- When ready to serve, sprinkle each custard evenly with 1-2 teaspoons of caster sugar (the more the sugar, the thicker the crust) and spread it evenly with the back of a teaspoon. Before the next step: Put each ramekin on a piece of silver foil or tray to avoid burning the bench! Using a blow torch, and one ramekin at a time, work from the outside to the inside using small circular motions (one or two inches from the surface). Let it rest for a minute, then come back for a second or third grilling. Don’t be shy about letting the sugar burn in places – it’s meant to!
- Let the caramelized sugar cool and harden to form a crisp layer (at least 5 minutes) then serve with mango salsa on the side.