A rich cream custard (dairy or non), with a burnt sugar topping flavored with juniper and sage, dusted with mastic sugar; all three flavors are known for their winter forest scent and flavor.
Winter Forest Creme Brûlée
Chefs, as with all artists, are inspired by some of the most peculiar things. I like to call this creation, “Winter Forest Creme Brûlée”! Let me tell you how this luscious winter creme brûlée came into being.
I walked into a Starbucks shop one day and a strange, weird new drink caught my eye. Juniper, sage, latte with a sprinkle of pine sugar on top!
Someone must have fallen over in the forest while cutting down their Christmas tree, having forgotten to drink their morning cup of joe to start their day!
Starbuck new holiday drink, some say it tastes like dirt while others say it’s like a walk in the forest.
This was the Christmas of 2018. Fast forward several years and I don’t believe they ever served up the Juniper Latte again. Lucky for me, I moved on and created the most delicious creme brûlée from the concept I encountered that year.
Winter Forest Scent and Flavor
The flavors were all coming together in my mind. I still had a pot of sage growing in my greenhouse. For some weird reason I always have juniper berries in my spice rack. Cream, egg yolks, and sugar: check.
The pine sugar? I knew exactly what I would use. Mastic! One of my favorite flavors for Greek Easter bread. It’s a resin from a type of evergreen tree, (easy to find on line or a Middle Eastern Market), that has the most exotic flavor and smell.
Okay. I was all set to go into the kitchen and explore this exotic, woodsy, wintery dessert!
What’s not to love about the simplicity of a three ingredient baked custard. At its basic form, it is cream, sugar and egg yolks. Anything else can be added but basically that’s it.
So what’s the big deal about those three ingredients? Fire! With a dusting of sugar across the top of the custard and a torch, suddenly what is creamy on the inside, just became a sweet brittle crust on top!
Creme Brûlée Flavors
While the classic creme brûlée is made with vanilla, which of course tastes amazing, why stop there?
Turn this classic into the flavor of a Snickerdoodle by adding cinnamon to the sugar before it’s torched.
A lovely summertime option would be to extract the essence of ‘in season’ lavender flowers into the cream and created a lavender/sugar dust for the top, as in the delicious Lavender Shortbread Cookies.
Chocolate, of course. Of course a dark rich chocolate can be added into the cream, sugar and egg yolk mixture and baked to a decadent chocolate brûlée.
Bourbon would also be lovely. Drizzle a little bourbon across the custard after it has baked, sprinkle the sugar on top and torch it. Oh! Do be careful though. Maybe it would be safer to light a match to it first and let the alcohol burn off and then torch the sugar to create and crust.
How To Make Winter Forest Creme Brûlée
It’s too bad the original coffee creation didn’t take off, but in truth, it just had one too many conflicting flavors.
Coffee is already a dominant flavor. Add to that cream, sugar, sage and juniper berries? Nah! Not good. It did taste like dirt.
Remove the coffee from that combo and you’ve got something really beautiful in both scent and flavor.
Crushing a few juniper berries and chopping fresh sage, slow simmering in a little cream, then turn off the stove and allow the cream to steep… absolutely spectacular!
Crushing a lump of mastic, yes it comes in a small lump of clear resin, mix it with sugar and you’ve got more winter forest scent and flavor to create the pine dust brûlée brittle on top.
- Full cream
- Juniper berries
- Egg yolks
- Ramekin cups
- Mixing bowl
- Hand mixer
- Measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- Butane torch
- Mortar and pestle or spice grinder
- Bath pan
Winter Forest Creme Brûlée RecipeCourse: DessertCuisine: Mediterranean
Cream or coconut cream, juniper berries, sage and mastic, flavors of a winter forest bring this creme brûlée into the holiday with decadence.
Full Cream – 2 cups, or full cream coconut milk
Juniper Berries – 1 tablespoon, crushed
Sage – 1 tablespoon, chopped
Egg Yolks – 4, room temp
Sugar – ½ cup, reserve 1 tablespoon for sprinkles
Mastic – 1 teaspoon, crushed
- Preheat oven to 325
- Place the crushed juniper berries and sage in a small pot with the cream and bring to a slow boil. Turn off. Let it cool and steep for about 30 minutes. Strain
- Place egg yolks and sugar in a bowl, and whip until light in color. Slowly pour in cooled cream mixture while stirring.
- Pour this mixture into ramekin cups. Place the cups in a baking dish and pour enough water into the baking dish to create a bath for the ramekin cups, about half way up the cups.
- Bake about an hour or until the center of custard looks fairly firm. It will firm up completely once chilled.
- Cool for 30 minutes. Place in the fridge for 2 hours.
- When ready to serve, mix the reserved 1 tablespoon of sugar with the crushed mastic and sprinkle across the tops of the custard.
- Torch the tops to glaze the sugar, or simply place under the broiler for a short moment, but watch closely so it doesn’t burn.