When I crossed the door step of Bar Centrale on a sunny Thursday a few weeks ago to meet our friends Sherry and Bob from Sausalito, it had been almost 4 years that we had first met – at the very same coffee bar. They have become dear friends of ours and we make sure to meet at least once a year, may it be in California, in France or in our Bavarian capital.
I’m sure I have rhapsodized about the bounty of fruits that Sherry harvests in her gardens before, the most amazing figs, wild strawberries, lime or pomegranate, just to name a few. Yet I’ve always been especially drawn to her Meyer Lemons, a citrus fruit that is not only not available here in Germany, asking a fruit dealer at Viktualienmarkt will likely give you a “you’re-making-this-one-up” blank stare probably thinking you’re crazy. Nobody even knows their name here! Being aware of our dilemma, Sherry and Bob always do their best to provide us with as many creations containing the fruit, its juice or skin as possible – of course, only to get us addicted!
But back to Bar Centrale: As soon as I had spotted them and hugged them plenty, Bob was pulling a huge Ziploc bag out of his luggage: filled with almost a dozen of the most beautiful Meyer lemons from their gardens! Immediately I started thinking about the best ways to use them all up – ok, I first did say “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” of course!
Having eaten both ice cream and sorbet of Meyer lemons before, shortbread as well as cake, I was overwhelmed with all the possibilities that just opened up. Rubbing the bright yellow skin releases an intense aroma and their juice is less acidic than our ordinary lemons, making it a masterpiece to use in various citrus desserts. Now, what kind of dessert should I prepare with them? Ignoring my cookbook collection I turned to my delicious bookmarks for inspiration, engaged my autopilot browsing mode and got pulled out of it when I reached Tartelette’s Pots de Creme, which instantly charmed me – coming with the added benefit: it’s a dessert you can prepare with regular lemons as well! The custard turned out perfectly creamy, the citrus note was right to the point, yet not overpowering and the preparation was a piece of cake.
Preheat your oven to 160°C (~315°F)and position a rack in the center.
Combine heavy cream, vanilla (bean and scraped out seeds) and lemon zest in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, then turn off the heat and let steep for about 10 minutes.
Whisk together egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until it become pale in color (at least 4 minutes on medium level with my KitchenAid), then add the lemon juice and a pinch of salt until thoroughly combined.
Strain the heavy cream though a fine mesh sieve and discard the lemon zest. Slowly pour the heavy cream over the egg yolk mixture and whisk well, but slowly – otherwise you will end up with too much foam on top of your custard base. In case the final mixture is too foamy, you should wait a couple of minutes (the foam will rise to the top) and then skim it off. (I find this step very important, as any foam left will produce an unpleasant, slightly grainy texture on top of the final Pots de Creme.)
Place small ramekins in a large enough casserole or other deep baking dish (I like to place a paper towel beneath, as it prevents the ramekins from sliding) and divide the custard mixture among the ramekins. Fill the baking dish up with hot water until it reaches about halfway up the ramekins’ sides.
Bake the Pots de Creme for 20 to 25 minutes (mine took no longer than 20 minutes) until the top is set, but the custard as a whole still jiggles when tapped. Remove the pan from the oven, carefully lift the ramekins from the hot water and let cool on the counter before chilling them for a couple of hours in the fridge (cover them with foil to prevent the custard from adopting any fridge odors).
Meyer Lemon Pots de Creme
Recipe source: Tartelette, adapted
Prep time: 20 min., baking: ~20-25 min.
Ingredients (serves 6-8, depending on ramekin size):
375 g heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise, seeds scraped out
2-3 Meyer lemons (zest of one lemon & 60 ml juice)
6 egg yolks (L)
100 g white sugar
a pinch of fine sea salt