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Bay and Blackcurrant Crème Brûlée

Bay and Blackcurrant Crème Brûlée from Ruby Tandoh's brilliant baking book Crumb. This sophisticated French dessert is sure to impress dinner party guests with its unique flavour combination.


A whisper of liquorice let on the tongue by a velvet bay-infused custard, and the dark warmth of blackcurrants at the end of a spoonful. This is one of my favourite flavour combinations. Crème brulee is an impressive way to end a meal, and if you have a blowtorch to caramelise the sugar on top: even better. People are rarely as thrilled as when their dessert comes wit a side of pyrotechnics.

These desserts are a nutritionist’s worst nightmare but there’s really no point trying to devise a slimmed-down version of a recipe whose very essence is indulgence. Enjoy the crème brûlée in all its calorific glory; just don’t make a habit of it.

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3 large egg yolks
3 tbsp caster sugar
300ml double cream
50-75g blackcurrants
2-4 fresh bay leaves
40-60g granulated sugar
2-4 individual ceramic or glass ramekins

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1 Preheat the oven to 150°C/fan 130°C/gas mark 2.

2 In a mixing bowl, whish the egg yolks and caster sugar together until the mixture begins to lighten in colour Heat the cream in a small pan until almost boiling. Pour the cream slowly over the egg and sugar mixture, whisking all the while. Scatter a few blackcurrants into each ramekin.

3 Divide the hot custard between the ramekins, then stand a bay leaf in each (it doesn’t have to be submerged – if you leave it propped against the side of the dish, it will be easier to pull out later).

4 Put the dishes into a small tin or oven dish deep enough to accommodate hot water reaching two-thirds of the way up the ramekins. Bake until barely wobbling in the centre – this should take 30-45 mins, depending on the size, but do keep an eye on them and give them more or less time, as necessary. They’re done when they’re almost completely set, although there’ll be little to indicate this except the slight ripple in the middle as they are jiggled. When they’re ready, gently tease out the bay leaves, leave the custards to cool to room temperature, then chill.

5 Sprinkle the granulated sugar generously over each custard. Then caramelising can be done using either a blowtorch or under a hot grill – either way, be vigilant. If using a blowtorch, first make sure that the work surface is completely clear, then – giving it your full concentration – work the tip of the blue flame lightly over the sugar. The sugar will at first seem unmoved, but will soon melt, then bubble, brown and burn. If using the grill, allow the grill plenty of time to heat up before you put the custards underneath: they need to be caramelised quickly to allow the top to set without melting the underneath.

6 Leave to cool at room temperature for 10 minutes or so before serving. Take a spoon in your hand and bring it firmly down onto the surface of the crème brûlée with a crack. It’s a feeling to be relished. Enjoy.

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