Green Tea Crème Brûlée
Last spring I came across the recipe of a peach-leaf infused Crème Brûlée featured at Chez Panisse and I thought it sounded divine and vowed to try it sometime in the summer. In our region of the Upper Midwest few peach trees can survive but I had heard rumors of one or two that were tucked away in protected spaces and I had hopes of trimming a few leaves for this project. Alas, after asking around, I now think these elusive trees are either gone and/or the people who knew of them are no longer here, so the project was put on hold.
But the idea of an infused Crème Brûlée had now taken me so I pondered other delicate flavors that could be used—lavender, thyme, cinnamon, star anise, the list goes on. We had been to a wedding in Des Moines and visiting the Gong Fu Tea Shop I experienced the inspiration for a green tea infusion for the creme. Brilliant, thought I! But of course, what felt like an original idea was in fact, after a little internet searching, not an uncommon notion at all…although those recipes used macha powder instead of tea leaves.
Ah well. I think the moment of true inspiration is more important than whether or not the results are original.
I couldn’t find fresh peach tree leaves so thought this might be an interesting combination. Gong Fu carries high quality teas without artificial flavorings and I trusted that it would not be an overpowering or weird flavor. I’m not sure what the white and lavender flowers are, but they’re very cute.
Green tea, of which there are oodles of varietals, is a both fussy and delicately delectable. These unfermented leaves needs to be brewed between 175-185 degrees for 3-5 minutes, depending on the tea. If steeped too long or at too high a temperature it will release more tannins and give you a ‘bitter, astringent brew’. These needs align with using scalded milk, which is brought to a temperature of ideally 180 degrees then removed from heat.
Tempering the eggs
If the scalded cream (or whatever liquid) is added to eggs too quickly the heat will cook the eggs and whatever project you are making will come to a screeching halt. Or at least be altered. Use a tablespoon or a small cup to drizzle in the first third of the hot liquid, whisking gently the entire time so the heat is quickly dispersed. After around one third of the liquid is incorporated into the eggs the drizzling-while-whisking can happen at a faster pace.
Oh the dreaded waterbath! Perhaps that is what gives the incorrect impression that Crème Brûlée is difficult to make, but don’t worry, it’s just a step in the process—don’t let it intimidate you.
Really, Crème Brûlée is perfection and needs no alterations. But it’s fun to play around so that is what we do. The result is a silky custard with hint of green tea with its ever-so-mild twang.
Green Tea Crème Brûlée
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35-40 minutes
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Whisk together until just combined.
4 Egg Yolks
2 Tablespoons Sugar
a pinch of Salt
Heat in a small sauce pan:
2 cups Heavy Cream (or 1 cup Cream and 1 cup Half & Half)
1 Tablespoons Sugar
1/2 Vanilla Bean or 1 teaspoon Vanilla
Heat (scald) the cream until it’s hot to the touch but not boiling, then remove from heat.
Tea ball with 2 teaspoons Green Tea, or 2 tea bags
Steep for 5 minutes while stirring, then remove the green tea from the cream.
If using a Vanilla Bean, remove the pod and scrape the seeds into the cream.
Temper the eggs by slowly whisking the cream into the eggs—this needs to happen slowly so the eggs are heated by the scalded milk but are not cooked.
Pour into 6 x 4 ounce ramekins until almost full.
Place the ramekins in a baking pan and carefully pour boiling water into the pan so it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the custards are set and slightly jiggle. Remove them from the water bath, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate a few hours to firm up.
To serve, spread evenly on the top of each ramekin:
2 teaspoons Sugar
Heat with a kitchen blowtorch until the sugar caramelizes evenly. You can also use an oven broiler to caramelize—put ramekins on a cookie sheet and set 2-3 inches below the heat source for 2-5 minutes. Watch them carefully, they may need to be rotated if the heat is not even and they can burn quickly. Carefully remove the cookie sheet and let cool before touching.
A shelf in Tattered Cover LoDo Bookstore near Union Station in Denver–these looked like great books that could help me with the art of teaching and talking with about others about cooking, giving more ways to convey in words the methods and concepts that could increase people’s joy of cooking.
“May your charity increase as much as your wealth.”