I always find it a welcome surprise when Meyer lemons pop up in the grocery store this time of the year. They seem so out of place during the bleak mid-winter, but I do appreciate them. They’re cheery, a reminder of summer, and a hope of warmer days to come.
Meyer lemons are hard to pass up, so I always buy several with big plans on how to use their fresh, perky flavor. I tend to let them linger as long as I can, as a bright spot in our kitchen, grabbing one as I pass by to take a whiff for a little pick me up, a bit of aromatherapy if you will.
This year they first found their way into crème brûlée. I have to admit, a well proportioned, quality vanilla crème brûlée is pretty hard to beat in my book, but the subtlety of the Meyer lemon addition was just enough without being distracting or overwhelming, like many lemon desserts can often times be.
Although it has a fancy reputation, crème brûlée is pretty simple when you break it down. Plus the beauty of crème brûlée is that it can be made well ahead of serving time, and then “flamed,” as my kids like to call it, before serving. Perfect for a party I’d say. (Or maybe just a plain old day too?)
Do you have any favorite recipes using Meyer lemons, or other crème brûlée flavors you enjoy? Do share!
Note: The recipe I’m sharing is the basic crème brûlée recipe that I make with a bit of Meyer lemon zest added, so if you’re in the mood for plain vanilla, just leave out the zest. No other changes will be necessary.
Also, as far as sugars for the crispy crème brûlée top, I’ve used demerara, regular granulated sugar, and caster (superfine) sugar. All will work, but I prefer a good layer of the caster sugar. I’ve found it melts quicker and more evenly. But caster sugar can be hard to find, so another option, if you’d like to try the finer sugar, is to pulse regular granulated sugar in a food processor a few times, not until it’s powdered sugar, but finer than regular granulated sugar.
- 1 vanilla bean or 1½ teaspoon good vanilla (I like to use Pure Vanilla Bean Paste.)
- 2½ cups heavy cream
- zest from 2 Meyer lemons, about 1 teaspoon
- 7 large egg yolks
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- hot water enough for water bath
- 6 tablespoons superfine sugar (caster sugar) (granulated, turbinado or demerara will work too)
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Place 6 ramekins (about 6 ounces each) onto a roasting pan, baking pan, or rimmed baking sheet.
- If using a vanilla bean, split it in half and scrape the seeds out with a knife. Add vanilla bean and seeds (or vanilla/vanilla paste), to a saucepan along with the cream and Meyer lemon zest. Slowly warm cream mixture over medium heat, just until foam begins to form around edge. Remove from heat, and let mingle for about 10-15 minutes.
- In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until it begins to lighten in color and slightly thicken.
- Strain the cream mixture at this time.
- While continuing to stir, very gradually add the cream mixture into the egg/sugar mixture until all is combined to create the custard base. Work slowly to avoid cooking the eggs.
- Pour equal amounts of custard mixture into the ramekins. Transfer baking pan (with filled ramekins) to oven and pour enough hot water into baking pan to come to halfway up the side of the ramekins. Bake until custard is set, but still a little jiggly in the center, anywhere from 35-45 minutes, remove from oven, let cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days.
- When ready to serve, evenly spread the superfine sugar over tops of custards. Using a torch, carefully melt the sugar until golden brown. Let cool until sugar hardens and enjoy!