This may come as a surprise to many of you, but I am not actually a very big fan of sweets. After going on a two-year-ish break from excessive sugar during my early undergrad years, afterward I found that my palate was easily overwhelmed by the smallest amount of sweetness. That being said, there’s one dessert that, despite being a dessert, gets me every time. Whenever I discover it on the menu of a new restaurant, I can’t help but order it! Crème brûlée continues to enchant me no matter how many other sweets I taste, and to this day is my absolutely favorite dessert whose taste and texture reveal surprising nuances despite its seeming simplicity.
So it was with great pleasure that I encountered flan in the shoujo manga Kitchen Princess, a story centered on a young girl whose dream it is to become a pastry chef and find her “flan prince” along the way. Flan becomes a theme of sorts as it repeatedly resurfaces in the manga once Kazami Najika makes her way to Seika Academy. There, she not only enters a special class for talented students, but she also encounters a few young men who fit the image of a murky figure from her memories. This person from her childhood comforted her during the most painful part of her life and encouraged her to live on smiling, all due to the gift of a small serving of flan; her “flan prince” is the very reason why she follows the dream that she does. It is her greatest wish to reunite with this prince and return the favor by making him her own version of that memorable dish.
When the time comes, she chooses to make crème brûlée–a dessert served cold with a creamy custard body and topped with a crisp layer of caramelized sugar. The delicate balance of soft/hard and mild/sweet amazes me every time. Below is my twist on Najika’s dessert (see the thumbnail for the original recipe); I include green tea so as to give it a more “Japanese” feel.
Ingredients (Serves 4) Time: 1 hour
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon matcha powder (just a cheap one for cooking)
Note: You could also try substituting tea leaves or bags, though the flavor will probably be weaker. Mine turned out fairly strong, so if you don’t like an overly bitter green tea flavor, you could lessen the powder, or try one of the aforementioned options.
- Vanilla extract, to taste
- In a mixing bowl, thoroughly mix egg yolks and sugar.
- Mix heavy cream, milk, and matcha powder (optional) in a small pot over medium heat until the temperature is approx. 104 degrees F. Do NOT let it boil.
- Slowly add step two to the bowl from step one and stir.
Note: If the step two mixture is too hot, it will cook the eggs, so be careful.
- Add a little vanilla extract.
- Strain the mixture with a fine sieve or paper towel, then pour carefully into four ramekins.
- Place the ramekins into a baking pan, then fill the pan with boiling water until it is half the height of the ramekins.
Note: To avoid spilling water into the ramekins or onto yourself, first move the pan into the oven, then pour the water into the pan before baking.
- Bake the entire pan in a 320 degree F oven for 30-40 minutes.
- Once finished, allow the pan to come to room temperature, carefully move the ramekins to a new pan/plate, and refrigerate for at least four hours, or overnight.
Note 1: To see if they’re ready from the oven, they should be slightly jiggly in the center, but not liquid.
Note 2: You can also move the ramekins straight from the hot pan to one filled with ice water if you do not have room in your fridge.
- After they are chilled, but before eating, cover the surface of the custard with a thin layer of granulated white sugar. Using a blow torch on the sugar, bring the top layer to a nice, golden brown.
Note: If you don’t have a blow torch, you can heat the back of an old spoon (one you don’t mind ruining) on the stove and press it against the sugar.
Aaaaaand, the finished product!
This post is part of Otaku Champloo’s [Oishinbo and Food Manga] Manga Moveable Feast!