Crème brûlée is one of my favourite desserts and can be made in a variety of flavours. I like to serve it as a pre-dessert in tiny ramekin dishes.
To make a variation on this recipe, omit the rhubarb to make a vanilla crème brûlée. If you leave out the rhubarb, there’s no need to line the base of the ramekins and the brulée can be served in its moulds. Ramekin moulds are widely available in cookery supply stores. The season for rhubarb is around the middle of February and into March.
Vanilla Créme brulée with rhubarb; serves six
250g/9oz rhubarb stalks
350ml/12fl oz double cream
125ml/4fl oz whole milk
15g unsalted butter
1 dessertspoon clear honey
2 vanilla pods
6 egg yolks
75g/2 and half oz caster sugar Equipment
6 ramekin dishes
1. Pre-heat oven to 120C/225F. Cut the rhubarb stalks first into 4cm lengths and then slice lengthways in half again.
2. Heat the butter and honey in a large saucepan until it bubbles. Add the rhubarb (enough to just cover the base of the saucepan). Cook gently for about five minutes over a medium heat until the rhubarb is soft, but still whole.
3. Remove the rhubarb from the heat and drain using a sieve. Spread the rhubarb out on a clean tea towel to absorb the excess moisture. Change the towel twice more, as the rhubarb should be completely dry so that it doesn’t rise during the baking process.
4. Line the bases of the ramekin dishes with discs of greaseproof paper. Divide the rhubarb between the dishes, spreading the pieces neatly over the bases of the moulds. Arrange the ramekins on a baking sheet.
5. Slit the vanilla pods and scrape out the seeds, then mix the seeds with the cream. Put the cream, milk and empty pod shells into a large saucepan. Over a low heat, bring slowly to the boil.
6. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with a whisk until smooth.
7. When the cream mixture starts to boil and rise, pour it in stages onto the whisked egg yolks, whisking continuously. Stir in the caster sugar until it has all dissolved. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a jug. Discard the vanilla pods at this stage.
8. Pour a little of the custard over the rhubarb in the ramekins and cook the custards partially in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the mixture has set enough to hold the rhubarb in place.
9. Remove from the oven and pour the remaining custard on top of the ramekins. Cook for a further 45 to 60 minutes or until lightly set. The custard is ready when, if tipped over, it comes away slowly from the sides of the ramekin and is slightly wobbly in the centre.
10. Allow to cool down before refrigerating until quite firmly set.
11. Take the brulée out of the moulds by running a knife around the edge of each ramekin and inverting onto a plate. Remove the greaseproof paper. Sprinkle with demerara sugar and caramelise under a hot grill until the sugar has hardened to a crisp consistency. Make sure the grill is very hot so that the topping can caramelise quickly.
12. Serve with a fruit jus.