Spring never fails to amaze me. After the dreary cold days of winter have finally passed us by, suddenly the landscape wakes up and bursts forth in spectacular shades of green, pink, purple, red, yellow and on and on. The trees are nearly done blooming here, but the tulips now wave like little flags in the breeze. The new-lime color of the budding leaves has turned over to kelly green and the smell of freshly cut grass perfumes the air. Spring is new, starting over, beginning again. I think it is time B and I had a little spring in our lives as well.
We’ve made it through the winter, through the long lonely drives on weekends, through the tears every Sunday. If only we could turn those driven miles into airline miles, we’d be jetting off to a white sandy beach and cocktails with umbrellas in no time! But the newfound scars on the suitcases and the spinning numbers on the odometer say otherwise and I hope, on this festive day, that the end is in sight soon. We’ve traveled this yellow brick road for a while, admittedly more wearily than we care to admit on some days, but I think we’re rounding that last bend along the way.
It was with hope for the end of this journey that sent me into the kitchen and sent pots, pans and mixing bowls flying. I was in a mood for something special, something decidedly spring. I was in the mood for dessert. This doesn’t happen often, my sweet-toothed kin can attest to that. But there I was, staring at a bag of plump vanilla beans, when seredipity struck and I found myself rummaging through my borrowed organizing bin looking for my dried lavender.
A bit of cream, eggs, and sugar later, I had the makings of a pot de creme (don’t pronounce the “t”). A silky, elegant custard, pot de creme is the precursor to creme brulee. It is a little looser, a little more unctuous, and decidedly easier given there’s no need for a torch to caramelize the sugar. What can I say? I couldn’t bring my entire kitchen with me to this little apartment! So I had to make do. Boy, we’re roughing it, huh? The combination of heady vanilla beans and floral lavender create a dessert that sings along with the robins in the backyard. It was something out of the ordinary, something fitting for a hopeful future.
vanilla bean-lavender pot de creme
recipe: jb’s pour house
2 c. heavy cream
2 vanilla beans
1 tsp. dried culinary lavender (I use Penzey’s)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
1/2 c. sugar
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Slice the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and using the back of the knife, scrape the seeds from the bean. Place the vanilla bean halves, seeds, and lavender in a medium saucepan with the cream. Bring to a slight simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat, cover, and let cool for about 30 minutes.
Add the vanilla extract to the cooled cream mixture. Strain the cream into a large mixing bowl. Place the egg yolks and sugar in a medium mixing bowl or stand mixer and cream until light yellow in color. Add about 1/3 of the cream mixture to the eggs, mixing constantly. Add the cream/egg mixture to the remaining cream, mix well. Place four ramekins in a large baking dish. Divide the cream mixture evenly among the ramekins. Fill the baking dish with hot water until the water reaches about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Take care not to spill any water into the ramekins.
Carefully transfer the baking dish into the preheated oven and bake for about 30-45 minutes until the center is barely set (the sides of the custard will remain fairly stable but the centers will move around like Jello when jiggled). Carefully remove from the oven and chill until cooled, at least 2 hours. Serve.
Here’s to the Emerald City…
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