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There is much ado regarding the humble beginnings of this baked custard dish. The French claim it is theirs, but food historians say its origins lie in the kitchens of Cambridge University’s Trinity College. For the best results, this recipe should be started the day before, to allow the ginger to infuse with the cream. However, if you are in a real hurry, then steep for an hour and add a pinch of ground ginger to boost the flavour.
Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F), Gas Mark 2. Put the ramekins in a roasting tin along with enough hot water to come halfway up their sides. Put the cream, mascarpone and vanilla in a pan and heat until almost boiling, then remove the pan from the heat and add the ginger.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they are pale and fluffy. Gradually add the ginger cream, whisking all the time. I like to include the bits of ginger in the crème brûlée, but if you don’t want them, place a sieve over a measuring jug and pour the cream mix into it to sieve out the ginger. Using a wooden spoon, push the ginger mix left in the sieve to get as much flavour as you can, then discard the ginger bits.
Pour the cream mix equally into the shallow dishes, then place them (still in the roasting tin) in the oven for about 30 minutes, (if you have used ramekins they may take slightly longer) or until the brûlées begin to set. They should still wobble like jelly in the very centre but should not be too liquid, nor completely set. It is very easy to overcook these so check after 20 minutes to see how they are doing. Then check every 5 minutes after that, as some ovens are much more powerful than others.
Remove the brûlées from the oven and from the roasting tin and leave to cool right down, then place in the fridge for at least 1 hour. This is a brilliant dish for entertaining as you can make them to this stage, then keep in the fridge and finish them just before you’re ready to serve.
Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of brown sugar evenly on the top of each brûlée, making sure the tops are completely covered. Using a cook’s blowtorch, caramelise the sugar until dark brown and crisp. A very hot grill works okay too, but a blowtorch is more fun. Leave to cool a little and then serve immediately.
Serves 4–6 (V)
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