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If I had to rank my favorite desserts, crème brulée would definitely be in the top three. No, wait. It would actually hold the Nº 1 spot. I love the variety of flavorings that can be infused, I love cracking the crusty caramelized sugar layer with the back of the spoon and digging for the silky sweet custard under it. I love the little black specks of vanilla that litter the bottom of the ramekin. Ahh… delicious! ( … And I just gained 3 lbs talking about it!!).
Another really great flavor that I love is mastic. Its use is so prevalent in the Mediterranean where it originates, from sauces and seasonings, to ice cream and desserts. It's the resin of the mastic tree, an evergreen shrub. The resin is dried into small translucent pebbles and usually comes in small containers of about a few ounces each. To use, grind the pebbles with a mortar and pestle. A little goes a long way. You can read more about it through this link. The flavor is so subtle and delicate, and has a flowery aroma that is really really soothing. It is also my favorite chewing gum flavor.
For this brulée, I wanted the taste of the mastic to dominate, so I didn't pair it with any competing ingredient. And the result was just fantastic, the brulée reminded me so much of Arabic ice cream. (Stay tuned for a future post on that).
Begin by bringing to a gentle simmer the milk and cream. Once simmering, take off heat, add the mastic powder, the orange blossom water and zest and let infuse for 10 minutes. In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until it forms a ribbon. Strain the cream infusion over it and whisk to incorporate well.
Line the ramekins in a large pan, divide the mixture to fill the ramekins equally. Fill the large pan with water to the level of the custard mixture. Bake at 350'F for 25-40 minutes (depending on size of your ramekins). You'll know it's done when the custard sets but still jiggles a little to a shake. (Tip: Place the large on the oven rack then fill with water).
Remove from pan and chill in refrigerator for at least two hours. To serve, sprinkle sugar on top and with a torch, caramelize the sugar to a golden brown.
Mastic Crème Brulée
makes 6-8 servings, depending on size of ramekin
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
1/4 tsp mastic powder
1/4 tsp orange zest
Sugar for caramelizing, about 1 tsp per ramekin
Berries to serve