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Gingered Rhubarb Creme Brûlée

The Kid turned 13 this week. Who could have imagined that my sweet baby boy could ever turn into this tall, lanky man child complete with a dirty mustache, hairy legs, sounding like Barry White with a cold but who still likes to curl up on the floor and coo baby talk to the dog.

I have been feeling like this birthday really deserves a real event to mark it. For so many, 13 is a really important birthday for young men. Sweet 16 is a girl thing to me but 13 seems to be the magic number for the boys.  We aren't Jewish, so a bar mitzvah was out of the question although he was campaigning for one. I told him that in other cultures we would have sent him alone out in the wilderness and told him not to come back until he had killed something to mark his entrance into manhood but that is apparently illegal here and would probably get me arrested in Toronto. Canadians are so uptight. Instead, I am making him prosecco risotto, mussels and creme brûlée and we got him a watch.

My son loves creme brûlée more than any other dessert so it's never a surprise when he requests that instead of some sort of birthday cake every year. For his kid party, he usually asks for an ice cream cake but none of us are cakey cake people so for our family dinner, it's never birthday cake. I usually have a lemon meringue pie or a lemon tart, the kid usually asks for creme brûlée and Shack likes sponge cake or angle food cake with strawberries and whipped cream or a flourless chocolate cake if he is feeling really saucy.

This year he thought it would be nice if we added some rhubarb to the creme brûlée which was actually a great idea, don't you think? We discovered last year that he adores rhubarb so I have a feeling this is going to be the year of rhubarb everything and since the weather has been so unseasonably warm for so long, we already have it in the stores and it's not even the last week of April. Might be a bad sign for the environment and but's a win for The Kid so mother earth be damned! We will worry about the end of the world after we finish dessert.

Gingered Rhubarb Creme Brûlée

Gingered Rhubarb:
400 grams chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbls chopped candied ginger

Combine the rhubarb, sugar and ginger in a heavy bottomed pot and cook over med to med low heat for about 15 minutes until the fruit is soft.
Set aside

1 large egg yolk
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar plus 1 tlbs per serving
3 cups whipping cream
1/2 vanilla bean
2 tbls maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 300F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or in a deep bowl with a hand mixer), mix the eggs and the sugar together until just mixed. Meanwhile, split the vanilla bean and scrap it out then throw it all in the cream. Heat the cream until just before it starts to come to a boil. The minute I see the tiniest hint of a bubble on the surface, I take it off the heat. You want to temper the eggs before adding all that hot cream by adding just a tiny bit of the hot cream to the egg/sugar mixture and mix it on low speed for a few seconds. Start to slooooowly add the hot cream to the egg/sugar with the mixer going until it's all added in. Add the maple syrup, let it take another few turns and then turn the mixer off.

I like to strain the custard into another bowl that has a pouring spout to remove the vanilla bean and any tiny bit of egg that might have scrambled a bit when you first add the hot cream.

Put a nice, heaping tbls of the rhubarb compote into the bottom of 6-9  ramekins (it totally depends on the size of your ramekins). Pour the custard over the compote in your ramekins which you have set into some sort of a baking pan. After they are all filled, carefully pour boiling water into the pan until the water comes halfway up the ramekins. Carefully move the whole thing into the oven on the middle rack and bake 40-45 minutes until the custard is set and it's just a little wiggly looking in the very centre.

Remove the custards from the water bath and let them cool completely on a wire rack. Once they are cooled, put them in the fridge until you are ready to eat them. At that time, take them out of the fridge, sprinkle a tbls of sugar on the top of each custard and shake it all around to make sure each one is completely covered with sugar.
This is where you get to fire up your handy, dandy blow torch and torch the surface of each custard until the sugar bubbles up and gets all brown. I like to do it in two layers so the crust is thick and really crunchy. After you finish torching the first layer of sugar, sprinkle another spoonful of sugar over the tops and torch again. 

Really, just do it.
The Kid can actually slide the disk of hard sugar off and eat it like a communion wafer.

 Let them sit for a minute or two to let the coating cool and harden before you serve them.

I have to tell you that this was my favourite creme brûlée ever.The tartness of the rhubarb was the perfect compliment to the rich, creamy sweetness of the custard.  It wasn't The Kid's favourite only because he thought the ginger was not necessary and Shack likes my creme brûlée plain. I will tell you that I thought this was brilliant and The Neighbours thought so too. Remember , my guys THINK they are super adventurous but really, they are picky weirdo comfort eaters in their own weirdo way so we tend to not really pay them much heed.

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