YOU Magazine - February 2013 - Creme BruleeA Dessert for the Perfect Romantic EveningBy Kirk Leins
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Creme Brulee
A Dessert for the Perfect Romantic Evening
By Kirk Leins

Creme BruleeA Dessert for the Perfect Romantic EveningBy Kirk Leins

With Valentine's Day just two weeks away, raise your hand if you've yet to plan a romantic evening for you and your Valentine. While I can't see who's actually raising their hand, I think it's safe to assume many folks are still plan-less. If you're one of them, take a deep breath and relax. I've got you covered.

Valentine's Day can be stressful to say the least. Much like New Year's Eve, a great amount of emphasis is placed on making it the perfect evening. To add to this pressure, both holidays pose many different challenges and obstacles. If you were guessing I'm going to address a few of them...well, you'd be right.

To me, the biggest challenge with Valentine's Day is that it's only one day. Make no mistake. I'm not begging for more days within the year where I'm expected to pull off the incredible. My point, rather, is that when you're talking about honoring one of the most important people in your life, creating the perfect day or evening is a somewhat daunting task.

The next challenge with Valentine's Day is the large number of people posed with the same challenge as you. Collectively, this translates into everything from having to make restaurant reservations and order flowers well in advance of the big day, to dealing with crowded restaurants and heavy road traffic on the night of.

We also know that when something is in high demand, quickly to follow is the inflated prices. Do I even need to get into the cost of Valentine's Day roses, or pre fixe dinners at fancy restaurants?

I'm here to say we can avoid the hustle and bustle of Valentine's Day, yet still honor the people we love, by creating a romantic experience at home. In terms of the entertainment portion of the night, I'll leave that up to you. Helping you make some delicious food, on the other hand, is where I come in handy.

Did Someone Say, "Dessert?"
Valentine's Day is a day when dessert reigns supreme. It doesn't matter where you ate or what you ate for dinner, a lackluster dessert is the culinary equivalent of a bad ending to a great movie. And who wants that?

No matter if you decide to dine out, or enjoy your evening at home, may I suggest that you forgo the thought of buying a pre-made dessert or lackluster box of chocolates? Instead, I urge you to take the bull by the horns and make an incredible dessert with your own hands.

I know what you're thinking – I'm no pastry chef, so how am I going to pull off an incredible dessert?

Relax. I already told you that I've got you covered.

Crème Brulee
In my opinion there are two types of desserts. The first is an over-the-top display of all that is sweet and decadent... and I say this in a good way. After all, hot fudge sundaes and pecan pie fall into this category.

The second type of dessert is one of elegance and refinement. From creation to consumption its main purpose is to close out a meal with a graceful, sweet satisfaction. In my opinion, crème brulee falls into this category. Sure, it's made with cream, sugar and eggs, but the end result is small portions that are light on the palate and go down easy. Like JELL-O®, there always seems to be room for crème brulee.

With that in mind, I'd like to give you my recipe for a ginger crème brulee with lavender-scented whipped cream. If you like the flavors of ginger and lavender you're going to love this dessert. If not, simply leave out these ingredients and make a straight forward and no nonsense crème brulee. I guarantee it's going to come out great. More importantly, I guarantee that you and your Valentine are going to love it.

Ginger Crème Brulee with Lavender-Scented Whipped Cream (makes 6 servings)

  • 4 C heavy cream
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 C sugar (plus more for the crispy topping)
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and scraped of its seeds
  • 2-inch knob of ginger, peeled of its outer skin and grated
  • Candied/crystallized ginger, chopped into small pieces
  • Approximately 1 to 2 quarts of very hot water

For the whipped cream:

  • 1.5 to 2 C heavy cream
  • 1 heaping tbsp fresh or dried lavender, crushed by hand
  • Powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a saucepot, add 4 cups heavy cream, the vanilla bean along with the scraped out pulp, and the grated ginger. Place over a medium-high flame and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once it comes to a boil, turn off the heat. Allow the mixture to steep for at least 20 minutes. Strain out the vanilla bean and set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar until the sugar is completely incorporated and the egg yolks have lightened in color. Slowly add the cooled cream to the mixture, whisking continually.

Place six 6-oz. ramekins into a baking dish or pan. Place a desired amount of candied ginger at the bottom of each ramekin. Evenly divide the custard mixture between the ramekins.

At the oven, pour hot water into the baking pan so that it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Place pan in the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the edges of the crème brulee have set but the centers are still trembling.

Remove the ramekins from the baking pan and allow them to cool. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days.

Remove the desired number of crème brulees from the refrigerator. Evenly sprinkle a teaspoon or so of sugar on top of each. Using a blowtorch, melt the sugar until it turns a light brown in order to form the crispy top crust. Allow them to sit for five minutes before serving.

For the Lavender Scented Whipped Cream:

The night before you serve your crème brulee, combine 1.5 to 2 cups of heavy cream with the lavender. Allow the mixture to sit overnight in the refrigerator. On the day of, strain the lavender from the cream. Using a hand mixer, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. If you like your whipped cream sweetened, add a desired amount of powdered sugar just as the mixture starts to thicken. Serve.

Okay my friends. All that's left to do here is to procure a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine to consume with your Valentine's Day dessert. If budget is an issue, please know that you do not have to break the bank with your bottle of bubbly. There are some very good American sparkling wines, Italian proseccos and Spanish cavas out there available for under twenty bucks a bottle. Just be sure to look for something "demi sec" (semi-dry). This way the dessert will be sweeter than the sparkling wine, a huge key when pairing wine with dessert.

I feel like I've set you all up for success. All that's left on your part is to execute. But, whatever you do on Valentine's Day just make sure that you don't buy into crazy consumerism promoted by certain advertisers. Simply, do your best to honor the ones you love. The real challenge is carrying that inspiration throughout the remaining 364 days of the year.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Kirk Leins has been cooking his entire life. No stranger to professional kitchens, he currently devotes most of his time to cooking instruction, food writing, and producing television. Kirk also provides his services as a personal chef in and around the Los Angeles area. He has made several TV appearances on both the national and local level, and is the Executive Chef for YOU Magazine. Sign up for Kirk's free newsletter and cooking blog at

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