There is a little shop called Mapro near where I went to boarding school in the Western Ghat mountains. They make their own syrups, jams, jellies and candies with fresh fruits and juices. They are famed for their strawberry jam. But my favorite thing from their shop has always been their rose syrup. It tastes amazing. Most other rose syrups I’ve had always have a chemically floral note to them that is very unpleasant to me.
When my family came to pick me up for vacation, we would always stop at Mapro to pick up jelly candies and other goodies for our 8 hour drive home. We would eat candies on the drive and save the jams and syrup for home.
I loved their rose syrup mixed in with a cold glass of milk. It was delicious.
I thought a rose creme brulee would make a perfect Valentine’s dessert and set about trying to find the ingredients. Since I was not able to get Mapro’s syrup here in San Diego, I decided to go straight to the source and work with roses. First I went looking for fresh, food-grade roses which aren’t sprayed with pesticide. The produce manager at Whole Foods asked me why I would want roses. “To bake with? I wouldn’t even do that for my wife!” he said. What an ass!
Then I tried dried rose petals, no luck there either. I was about to give up and buy a bottle of rose syrup made by a brand I did not trust when I walked by an aisle that had a bunch of packets of Mexican herbs and herbal teas. I saw these beautiful little rose buds and decided to experiment with them.
Although I was not able to achieve the pink color I was aiming for, I am still happy with the result. The rose flavor was very subtle. I loved it. Just a little hint of rose in the creamy custard. It tastes very elegant.
Rose Creme Brulee
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tbsp dried rose buds
- 1 inch strip of lemon peel about 1/4 inch wide
- 5 egg yolks
- 2 tbsp sugar, for the brulee
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan, bring the cream, sugar, rose buds and lemon peel to a simmer. Let simmer on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often so that the cream does not burn.
- Strain the rose buds and lemon peel out of the cream.
- In a medium bowl, whisk 5 egg yolks until smooth.
- While whisking the egg yolks with one hand, slowly pour about a 1/4 cup of the hot cream and whisk into the eggs (tempering the eggs). Be sure to pour slowly and whisk quickly to avoid cooking the yolks.
- Slowly pour the rest of the cream into the egg yolks and whisk well.
- Strain the egg mixture to remove any bits of egg that may have gotten cooked (coagulated).
- Pour the egg mixture into small oven safe bowls or ramekins. Fill the ramekins about 1/4 inch below the rim.
- Place the ramekins into a deep baking dish.
- Put the baking dish in the oven and carefully pour hot water into the baking dish (making sure no water gets into the custard) till about half way up the ramekins.
- Bake for 23 to 25 minutes if you have about 1/2 cup of custard in the ramekins. You will know they are done if they jiggle all the way across the top as opposed to rippling like a liquid. The trick is to get them out just as soon as they’ve set to this point.
- Let the custards cool at room temperature for thirty minutes or so, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
- When ready to serve, sprinkle a thin layer (about 1/8th of an inch) of sugar on the custard.
- Using a torch, melt the sugar until it turns golden brown. If you don’t have a torch, stick the custards with the sugar on them into the broiler for about a minute or two until the layer on top is hard and brown.
* I used two different sizes of ramekins. One that holds a little less than 1/4 cup of custard and another that holds a little more than 1/2 cup. The smaller cups bake faster, so I had to remove them about five minutes earlier than the larger ones.