For as long as I can remember, my traditional birthday dessert has been funfetti cake. If you asked my mother how many she has made for me over my 24 years, I would venture to guess the number would be in the hundreds. When I was a kid, my mom would always joke that my birthday lasted the whole month of June.
Between celebrations with different sides of the family, my friend birthday parties, and just random people stopping through the house, it seemed like June was definitely my “birthday month.” Now, living in a separate city (and state) from my mother, she wasn’t able to make me a funfetti birthday cake today (although I would bet next time I come home she’ll have one waiting for me).
But over the last couple of months, I have discovered a new favorite dessert- Crème Brulee. One of my favorite restaurants serves a lemon basil Crème Brulee that is to die for. Seriously, it is one of the best desserts I have ever had (and I’ve had A LOT). I recently picked up a kitchen torch and have been wanting to try it out, so I decided in honor of my birthday month, I would make Gingered Crème Brulee.
Before we start, some words of wisdom I have to share about this dessert is to not be afraid of the torch. I have had my fair share of kitchen mishaps in my day, so if I can torch a dessert without incident, you can too. You can find standard kitchen torches at just about any kitchen supply store. They’re fairly inexpensive, too. Of course, if you don’t have a kitchen torch, you can make use of the broiler in your oven to caramelize the tops of your Crème Brulee.
This dessert is actually quite easy to make, it’s just the refrigerating overnight part that adds to that intimidating total time of 9 hours. Crème Brulee words of wisdom #2: patience is a virtue. Those who know me know that I’m not the most patient person in the world (especially when dessert is involved), but when making a dessert such is this, it’s worth it.
So let’s get started. You don’t need many ingredients for Crème Brulee, and most of the ingredients you need, you probably already have in your cupboard or fridge. Custard cups are useful and make for a great presentation- again, you can find these at most kitchen supply stores. They come in many different sizes, colors and shapes- but these oval white porcelain ones are my favorite.
Heat your oven to 250°F. This may seem low, but you want the custard to bake at a nice, gentle heat so it doesn’t burn.
Combine the half & half, whipping cream and fresh ginger in a small saucepan.
Cook over low heat for about 30 minutes. This will give the custard a nice, mild ginger flavor.
After 30 minutes, remove the ginger. I found the easiest way to do this is to place a strainer over a measuring cup to catch the ginger.
Beat the sugar and eggs in a bowl until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is slightly thickened.
Slowly add the ginger cream, mixing well after each addition.
Place the ramekins in a baking pan (I used 2- 13”x9” pans to accommodate all of the ramekins), and divide the mixture among them.
Now comes the slightly tricky part- place the pan on the oven rack and add boiling water to the baking pan to about a ½” depth, or halfway up the sides of the ramekins. I used a pitcher for easier pouring. Pour slowly so the boiling water doesn’t splash up into the custard (or onto you!).
Bake for 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until the custard is just set around the edges. It won’t look done and may still appear slightly jiggly in the center, but this is okay. It will fully set up in the fridge.
Remove the ramekins from the water and let them cool to room temperature (about an hour). Once they are cooled, cover with plastic food wrap and refrigerate overnight. Try not to lose any sleep- waiting to eat the Crème Brulee is kind of like waiting for Santa. For me, anyway.
When you’re ready to serve your Crème Brulee, remove it from the fridge and remove the plastic wrap. Sprinkle the tops of each custard with about ½ teaspoon of sugar. This is what is going to give it that crunchy top.
Now here is where the fun part comes in. I used my handy kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar, but if you don’t have one, preheat your broiler.
Just to see what the difference between using your broiler and kitchen torch would be, I decided to do half under the broiler and half with my torch.
The torch definitely allowed for a more even caramelization, since you can control where the flame is going. Under the broiler, it seemed more uneven and spotty. But if you were to rotate the ramekins halfway through, they may brown more evenly.
Whatever way you make Gingered Crème Brulee, you won’t be disappointed. Once you break the crunchy, sugary shell and dip into the smooth, creamy custard, you’ll know you’ve hit gold. Plus, for how easy it is to make, it sure looks impressive!
Try making this for someone for their birthday, or do like I did and make as a birthday present to yourself! What is your favorite birthday tradition? Give this crème brulee a try and make sure to come back and let me know how it turns out for you.
In a few days I’ll be making a lemon cheesecake for my sister, in hopes of converting her to a citrus fan. Did it work? Come back and see…
Mallory is a Product Specialist in the Test Kitchens at Land O'Lakes and writes for our Recipe Buzz® Blog.