Author Notes: The inspiration for this custard came from a dessert served at the (sadly) defunct Ten 01 restaurant in Portland, OR. The flourless chocolate cake with sage ice cream and whiskey-caramel sauce was so good it was declared Dessert of the Year by the Willamette Week in 2008. I thought it would make an interesting variation on crème caramel, and used the Cooks Illustrated recipe as a basic template for proportions and technique. I decided to infuse the custard with fresh sage leaves, and add some bourbon and maple syrup to the caramel sauce. The delicately herbal flavor of the sage is a little mysterious, and it works well intermingled with the bourbon maple caramel sauce. If desired a small dollop of bittersweet chocolate ganache makes a nice addition. - hardlikearmour
Serves 8 (using 6-oz ramekins)
Sage Infused Custard
- 8 large sage leaves (mine were about 2-inches long and 3/4-inch wide)
- 2/3 cups sugar
- 2 & 1/4 cups whole milk
- 3/4 cups heavy cream
- 3 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Combine sage leaves and sugar in food processor & blend for a minute or two, until only small pieces of sage remain. Transfer to medium sauce pan. Add milk and cream. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until starts to bubble. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep at least 30 minutes. While steeping make caramel sauce. After caramel sauce has been poured into ramekins proceed with step 2.
- Fold a dish towel to fit the bottom of a large baking dish, then arrange the caramel filled ramekins in the dish. Start heating a large kettle (1.5 to 2 quarts) of water on high heat.
- Whisk eggs, yolks, salt and vanilla together in a medium bowl, just until combined. You are not trying to incorporate air to the mix, you just want everything blended. Add the milk mixture and gently whisk to combine, again you don't want a bunch of foam.
- Pour custard mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a 4-cup glass measure or other suitable pitcher. It's okay if some small flecks of sage make it into the custard. Divide the custard into the ramekins.
- Once water is boiling, place baking dish containing ramekins on the oven rack. Carefully pour water into the pan so water is about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover pan loosely with foil to allow steam to escape. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a paring knife inserted about halfway between the edge and center comes out clean. Carefully remove the pan from the oven, then the ramekins from the pan. Place the ramekins on a cooling rack and allow to come to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.
- To serve run a sharp paring knife around the edge of the custard. Place a serving plate on top of the ramekin, then invert the plate and ramekin together. Wiggle the ramekin back and forth until you start to see some caramel oozing out, then lift off the ramekin.
- Cooks notes: 1. A canning jar lifter works beautifully for transferring the ramekins. 2. An overnight rest allows for more of the caramel to liquify, resulting in a saucier dessert. Technically you could serve this after it has cooled to room temperature, but you will end up with much more caramel sticking to the ramekin if you do. 3. As garnish I made crystallized sage leaves with some of the smaller leaves I had. I mixed one of the egg whites with a splash of water, then individually dipped sage leaves in, dredged them in sugar, then dried them overnight on a cooling rack. The leaves are edible, but very very strong in flavor so I'd advise against eating them!
Maple Bourbon Caramel Sauce
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup (Grade B preferred)
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar or a squeeze of lemon juice
- Combine maple syrup and bourbon in bowl, mix well and set aside.
- Combine sugar, water, corn syrup and cream of tartar or lemon juice in a medium sauce pan. Cover and heat on medium until mixture is boiling and sugar has dissolved. Uncover pan and increase heat to medium-high. Swirl pan frequently, and cook until mixture has become light golden brown.
- Remove pan from heat and slowly add bourbon maple syrup. The mixture will sputter and the caramel will seize up. Return to low heat, and very carefully stir until combined and smooth. Quickly pour caramel into individual ramekins, attempting to get fairly equal portions. You may need to gently reheat the pan if the caramel solidifies before you are done. Allow caramel to harden while finishing the custard.