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Malted Milk Crème Brûlée

creme brulee

Life has been extremely busy recently and days and hours have been whizzing by in a blur. I’ve been enjoying it immensely, but I’m not used to the pace and I crave quiet and familiarity to keep me grounded. I need a break from the newness and novelty and seek comfort in things I know well, especially with food.

Simplicity doesn’t have to mean denial though. You can make classics eternally interesting with quality ingredients and care. It can be mashed potato beaten with butter and hot milk until silky soft and smooth or the boiled egg cooked with a perfectly gooey yolk and fingers of toast just the right golden shade or a cup of tea drawn with fresh boiling water and proper tea leaves in your favourite cup. It’s the sum of its parts more than anything else.

At times like this, my greatest indulgence is crème brûlée. Combining how easy it is to make with the contrast between the crisp sugar shell and the smooth cream custard inside, it always hits the spot for me. I’m not an enormous fan of making this classic dessert too fussy, but I’ve always found the utterly simple vanilla version slightly lacking something. Inspired by the way that the malt powder in my recent Paris Buns deepened the flavour without dominating, I decided to use it instead of my albeit brilliant homemade vanilla extract.

Malted Milk Crème Brûlée (makes 2 large or 4 small, adapted from Felicity Cloake’s Perfect)

  • 300ml double cream
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 3 tablespoons malt powder (I used Horlicks)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons demerara sugar

Heat the oven to 150℃. Place two ramekins in a deep oven proof dish. Beat the egg yolks and the caster sugar together until they form a slightly airy mix. Pour the cream into a saucepan and heat over a medium heat until just boiling. Pour over the Horlicks powder in a heatproof bowl and stir well. Then add into it into the egg yolk mix. Transferring it from the pan to a bowl will cool the cream just enough to make sure the eggs don’t curdle. Make sure it is evenly mixed and voila, you have custard!

Pour the custard into the ramekins, leaving a bit of space at the top. Then fill the oven proof dish with cold water until it comes about 2/3s of the way up the dishes. This makes a water bath or bain marie and it cooks the custard gently so it stays wobblingly soft and yielding instead of omelette like. Bake for about 40 minutes and allow to cool at room temperature. You can then keep them in the fridge until needed.

horlicks brulee

Once cooled, sprinkle the top of the custard with the demerara sugar and blast under a very hot grill for about 5 minutes until blistered and melted or use a cook’s blowtorch for even more fun. Cool down again for about 10 minutes and the sugar will have formed a glistening crust that just cries out to be shattered with a spoon and eaten alongside the smooth creamy sweet custard with gusto. I won’t judge you at all if you run your finger round the dish to finish it all off…

This was the best crème brûlée I’ve made (and I’ve made a few, believe me!) The malt powder enhanced the natural sweetness of the cream and everything felt even more creamy and more luxurious than normal. Simple and classic but with just enough of a twist to be relevant. It’ll soothe even the most stressful day.

Veda Bread Ice Cream

July is a hot month back home in Belfast. Not especially due to the weather, but because of the slightly heightened feeling on the streets due to the Orange Order marches held in what is known as the Twelfth Fortnight. This was the traditional summer holiday for the shipyard workers in the city and a chance to hark back and remember Catholics and Protestants knocking the pan out of each other at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. For those of us who don’t enjoy some light civil disobedience, it’s a good time to potter around at home doing all those things you’d sort of meant to do all year since you can’t really go out. Or ignore them completely and spend time watching box-sets and eating ice cream instead…

Feeling oddly left out here in London, I thought I would try and join in with a ice cream recipe with a taste of home. I’ve been wanting to make a traditional brown bread ice cream since I got my ice cream maker earlier this year, but the arrival of my mother on the week of the Twelfth with every Northern Irish exile’s request in the shape of a loaf of Veda bread, meant I decided to give it an Ulster twist and use Veda instead.

A dark delicious slightly sticky (non-fruited) malt bread, Veda makes the best toast in the world, marrying together with butter like nobody’s business. Adding sugar to bring out the natural sweetness and crisping it up with butter is what my life has been missing up until now. Using this recipe by David Lebovitz, I crumbled the Veda into smallish pieces, fried off in butter and a good unrefined caster sugar and then toasted in the oven for about 30 minutes or until I had clusters of crispy, sticky, malty heaven that were so good, I could have skipped the ice cream and just eaten them alone.

But since I had promised ice cream, I made ice cream. The recipe uses a basic custard, but with the addition of cream cheese to stop it all being just too sweet. This is much more faffy, needing a third bowl, more counter space, a sieve, a whisk and more potential for the custard to curdle as it needs to be hotter to melt the cream cheese, so in future, I don’t think I’ll bother with this addition. Otherwise, it was all pretty straightforward.

I gave this ice cream a bit of a Brixton twist and added a slug of dark rum, some vanilla and then stirred the caramalised crisped up Veda into the churned mixture about five minutes before the end. Because the Veda is stickier and maltier than regular brown bread, the crumbs clumped up more and made huge nuggets of crispiness. Fearing that I would either break my teeth or the machine, I blitzed them in the blender to make them more crumb like. Everything then went in the freezer for a couple of hours to firm up and create hands down the finest ice cream ever created.

Creamy beyond belief but crunchy and chewy due to the crisped up bread crumbs and with a slightly grown up flavour from the rum, this was just magnificient. Rich with butter and with a gorgeous toffee feel, I defy you not to fall in love with this amazing ice cream and want to sneak a spoonful everytime you pass the freezer. It was declared even better than the Northern Irish ice cream institution that is Maud’s Pooh Bear Delight*.

You need to make this ice cream immediately. If you don’t have access to Norn Iron’s best kept secret, try it with some Soreen or a really good brown bread instead. This is what breadcrumbs aspire to being…

*Youse know it’d be belter in a poke.