Sunday, July 16, 2006

Lemon and Caramel Pots de Creme

We are back from our summer vacation. When we came home very late on Wednesday, we gratefully saw that a couple of really nice friends had stopped by earlier to stack our refrigerator. These little cups of custard from Ceyda were most appreciated. Since they disappeared before I could unpack my camera (our luggage was delayed), I could not picture them; but I called Ceyda the next day both to thank her and to ask for the recipe. Lori Longbotham's Luscious Lemon Desserts was on my kitchen table the same afternoon, and my pots de creme were picture-ready by next morning. I remember writing earlier that I don't like lemon desserts; well, these little custards are good enough to make me happily eat my words with them. But I have to confess that I liked Ceyda's version even better than mine. She made a few modifications to the recipe which I'll indicate next to the original measurements.

  • 1 1/2 c heavy cream (Ceyda used 2 c)
  • 1/4 c finely grated lemon zest (Ceyda used half lemon and half lime)
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 3/4 c sugar (Ceyda used less than this amount)
  • 1/4 c water
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/4 c lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
Preheat your oven to 325F. Boil a kettle of water for the water bath.

Combine cream, zest and coriander seeds in a pan and heat to the point of boiling. Turn off the heat, cover and let stand for 10 minutes.

Heat the sugar and water in a heavy saucepan. Stir until the sugar melts. At that point, lower heat and stop stirring. Let the syrup caramelize by swirling the pan as needed. Carefully pour in the cream mixture (the mixture will bubble quite a bit), whisk and cook over low heat until the caramel dissolves. (Make sure that the cream is still hot when you execute this step; otherwise, you may get lumps of caramel which will not dissolve.) Remove the pan from the heat.

Now combine the egg yolks, salt and lemon juice in a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon. Add a little of the cream mixture and stir gently. Then slowly add the remaining cream, stirring continuously. Strain the zest and seeds. Divide the custard among four 5 oz custard cups. (I used 5 cups, and I think this amount could even serve 6 as this is quite a rich dessert.)

Place the cups in a 9"x13" pan. Fill the pan with boiling water reaching halfway up the sides of the cups. Loosely cover the cups if you want to avoid skins forming on the custards. (I personally like them.) Bake for 30 minutes or until the sides are just set and the center is still jiggly. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully remove the cups from the pan. Cool and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before you serve.