Inspired Recipe: Cardamom Creme Brulee
There are few things I find as satisfying as the crack of a creme brulee. That sharp snap means a lot of things. On the light side, it means you're about to delve into a pot of sugary, creamy, eggy goodness, or that your next few minutes will be spent savoring shards of burnt sugar and creamy custard. On the flip side, that you've broken through a tough surface to claim a sweet reward, that you've defeated that hard wall separating you from the essence of the dessert that lurks beneath the cover. In the context of In the Shadow of the Banyan, cardamom creme brûlée is a perfect metaphor for the way Raami's heart closes off as she works and starves.
Though a classic creme brulee uses vanilla bean, swapping this out for cardamom gives the dessert a warmer, deeper flavor that transports you east. Readers will understand how Raami builds a shell over time, one that hardens and shields her from the world, while simultaneously bottling her emotions and preventing her from feeling. With the first crack, what seeps through is pain, sharp and stinging. Soon enough, though, more cracks follow and she depressurizes, allowing her to experience life again with all the good and bad mixed up together to create an ultimately fulfilling mix.
CARDAMOM CREME BRULEE
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
Toast about 1 tablespoon of cardamom pods in a dry skillet for 2-3 minutes. Smash open using a mortar and pestle, or under the blade of a chef's knife. Grind seeds into a fine powder.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Simmer cream and cardamom powder in a saucepan.
Remove from heat, cover and steep for 30 minutes.
Using a hand mixer, whisk together the egg yolks and granulated sugar until they are a thick, pale yellow and reach a ribbony consistency.
Temper the yolks by slowly stirring the cream into the yolks until all the cream has been added and the mixture is well mixed.
Skim any bubbles off the surface of the custard.
Arrange 6 ramekins in a baking pan and ladle the custard into each, leaving space at the top. Pour hot water into the baking pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake custards for 35 minutes, until the tops are set but insides are still jiggly.
After removing from the oven, chill the ramekins on your counter before putting them in the fridge to cool thoroughly.
Once cooled, coat the top of the ramekin with a light sprinkling of confectioner's sugar, enough to thinly cover the entire surface.
Use a cooking torch to brulee the sugar until it turns a caramel brown color. Let cool and harden.
When ready, crack open the creme brûlée with the back of a spoon and enjoy.
Though I always knew I wanted to do a creme brulee, the idea for using cardamom came from Epicurious. The rest of the recipe, however, is a classic from Julia Child. Also, this is a great visual tutorial for grinding cardamom.
Now that you’re good and hungry, read our recommendation of the book that inspired this recipe: In the Shadow of the Banyan.