Friday, August 26, 2011

Bramley Brulée – So Tempting, It’s Criminal

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I am not one to hold a grudge. I believe in forgive and forget... let bygones be bygones... bury the hatchet... kiss and make up. 

There is just one crime that I have been unable to pardon. Tears still well up (sniff) when I recall that dreadful moment.

The innocent victim...

I had organised a Christmas party for a group of friends and made sure that my favourite dessert was included on the menu. Mmmmm Crème Brulée... sigh! I had been dreaming about the moment when the spoon would shatter the caramelised sugar crust sending splinters of sweetness into the creamy custard. The starter and main course – delicious though they were – were merely a prelude to this delight.
As the empty plates were cleared away for the next course, I did a quick tour of the room to make sure all the guests were in good spirits. As dessert was being dished up, I made my way back to my table. Oh such sweet anticipation.
Aaaaaaaaarrrrggh! It took mere moments for the crime to be committed. There, in my place, was an EMPTY, licked-clean dish, with the merest trace of burnt sugar still clinging to the sides. “Ooops, I thought it was a spare,” said the heartless thief my dining companion who must have inhaled the dessert so quickly did it vanish, “let's order you another one.”

We're obviously not Bramleys... but we are a windfall!

His crime was not to be erased that easily. The caterers had been exact and there was (sniff) no more (sob) Crème Brulée (wail). While I have tried to find it in my heart to forgive this dessert-stealing fiend good friend, I know I will never forget...
Here’s my prize-winning Crème Brulée with Bramley apple compote. I used Bramleys because at the time I wrote this recipe, it was the 200th anniversary of the variety. You could use any sweet/sharp apple. Just don't leave your dessert unattended!
For 6 servings you will need...
... to pre-heat the oven to 140°C (when you have finished making the compote)

Apple compote
2 large Bramley apples, peeled and cut into small cubes
zest of 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon runny honey

Crème brulée
6 egg yolks
150g caster sugar
500mls double cream
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Sugar crust
75g caster sugar

1          For the apple compote: First, place all the compote ingredients in a medium saucepan over a low heat. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until the apple is tender, stirring occasionally. Pour off any excess juice and divide the apple mixture between 6 shallow ramekin dishes. Leave to cool. Place the ramekins in a roasting tray or similar. Now, preheat your oven to 140°C.
2          For the custard: Place the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl and whisk together until pale yellow in colour. Pour the cream into a medium saucepan, and add the cinnamon. Heat gently to just boiling then - very slowly - pour onto the egg mixture, whisking all the time. Now, divide the mixture between the ramekins. Transfer the ramekins to the oven and carefully pour boiling water into the roasting tray until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until the custards are just set. Remove the ramekins from the water and allow cool.
3          Finally, the topping: evenly sprinkle each of the cooled Bramley Brulées with the caster sugar and either place under a very hot grill until the sugar is golden and bubbling, or use a blowtorch to achieve the same effect. Cool before serving, but do not refrigerate.

Scatter a layer of fresh raspberries in the bottom of each ramekin instead of the apple compote. Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the cream in place of cinnamon.
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