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Lemon Pots de Crème with Swiss Meringue Brûlée

One of several styles of meringues, a Swiss meringue is also known as a warm or cooked meringue. The sugar and egg whites are beaten over hot water to dissolve the sugar completely and to increase the height of the egg foam. It is a sturdy meringue that is commonly used in icings and decorations. Here, a dollop is placed atop each pot de crème, then lightly browned with a handheld culinary torch.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the meringue:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 300°F. Have a pot of boiling water ready.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the cream, milk, sugar, salt and lemon zest and slowly bring to a simmer. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks until blended. Slowly add the hot cream mixture, whisking constantly, then whisk in the vanilla. Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a 1-quart measuring pitcher and press on the zest with a rubber spatula to extract the flavor.

Place four 5.4-fl.-oz. ramekins in a baking dish large enough to hold them without touching. Divide the custard evenly among the ramekins.

Carefully pour boiling water into the baking dish to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake until the custards are set, 35 to 40 minutes. They should still jiggle a little in the center; they will firm as they cool.

Remove the ramekins from the baking dish, place on a wire rack and let cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 8 hours.

To make the meringue, in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over but not touching simmering water in a saucepan and gently whisk until the mixture is hot to the touch or a candy thermometer registers 140°F.

Set the bowl on the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is doubled in volume and holds medium peaks when the whisk is lifted from the bowl, about 5 minutes.

Place a spoonful of the meringue on top of each pot de crème. Using a kitchen torch according to the manufacturer's instructions, move the flame continuously in small circles over the surface of the meringue until it is lightly browned. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, San Francisco, by Janet Fletcher (Oxmoor House, 2004).