Seasons are funny things, aren’t they? In Ireland we tend to have on average, oh, about two days of summertime a year. Three if we’re really lucky. When I was a student these days always conveniently coincided with major exams; in fact I think the gods of Irish summertime still do this. Those guys must hate students.
In Sydney, they have pretty much the exact opposite case. Here, we’ll get about three weeks of winter, tops. Summer glides into autumn, which sometimes threatens to turn into winter, but generally thinks better of it and simply glides back into spring again. We had sunshine and highs of 21 last week, but it is starting to get much cooler and wetter.
A major hint that winter is on the way are the two rapidly-shedding frangipani trees outside my house. During the summer these tress keep our bedroom shady and cool, while filling it with the lovely scent of frangipani. At the moment however, they are covering my car in a deluge of dying flowers and leaves, meaning I have to practically dig my way into it every morning.
Two weekends ago, I picked what I think will be the last frangipani flowers of the year and paired them with the last of the autumn pineapples to make a totally-tropical desert. Crème brûlée with spiced pineapple is actually a great choice for this in-between season; the Chinese five spice gives a lovely autumny accent to the summery pineapple. And crème brûlée is just plain awesome no matter what time of the year.
As The Starks say – Winter is coming. Even to Sydney.
Autumn crème brûlée with spiced pineapple
This recipe is adapted from Conrad Gallagher’s in 2 easy steps – fabulous food without the fuss. Now, I’m not usually one for buying gadgets and contraptions for cooking with, but I’m afraid for this desert, you will need a mini-blowtorch. You simply can’t get the beautiful, hard shell on top otherwise, but if you like crème brûlée, it’s seriously worth the investment.
For the crème brûlée:
1 vanilla pod
500 ml double cream
50 g caster sugar, plus 8 tsps extra for caramelising
4 egg yokes
For the spiced pineapple:
a pinch of Chinese five spice
4 tbsp maple syrup
1 small pineapple, skinned, cored and cut into large chunks
First off, preheat the oven to 150 °C.
Slice open the vanilla pod, scrape away the seeds with a knife and put these aside. Mix together the cream, sugar and vanilla pod in a heavy bottomed pot and gently cook over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool slightly. Meanwhile in a large bowl, whisk together the egg yokes with the vanilla seeds. Slowly whisk the cream mixture into the eggs until well combined. Strain the mixture and divide among four ramekins.
Transfer the ramekins into a large baking dish that is already half filled with water; cover the entire dish with tin foil and place in the oven to bake for 35 – 40 minutes.
Once cooked, allow the custard to cool, then transfer to a fridge and allow to set for at least 3 hours. When fully set, sprinkle with the remaining sugar and caramelise with a blowtorch.
For the spiced pineapple, simply heat together the Chinese five spice with the maple syrup and pineapple chunks. You can serve this warm, or cool, with or without the juicy syrup as to your taste.