by Jennifer Sartell
Photos by author
Spring has sprung here at Iron Oak Farm and we are bursting at the seams with new life and exciting ventures. As a child I remember the cold months dragging on in a seemingly unending dreariness. I would yearn to plant something, play in the dirt and soak up the warmth of the spring sunshine. Now that we have our farm, the spring planning comes right after Christmas and I find myself in a wonderful state of business all winter long! This year we’ve added ducklings to the menagerie, Black Spanish turkey poults have been ordered, and our bees should be arriving next month!
Along with preparing for new additions, we’ve been basking in the traditional perks that spring provides. Shearing the goats and getting my hands on all that mohair, trimming garlic greens to add to salads and of course, an increase in the number of eggs the girls are laying.
The chickens this spring have been laying a bountiful assortment of delicious eggs. I have 14 dozen in my fridge with two egg baskets full and ready to wash.
There’s nothing I like better than cooking with ingredients that we’ve produced here at Iron Oak Farm. Along with the abundance of eggs, we’ve also been maple syruping. We just boiled down our first 20 gallons of sap and are excited to have 12 8-ounce jars of glistening syrup. To learn more about the process of how we make maple syrup, visit my posts Old-Fashioned Maple Kettle Syrup and Finishing the Maple Syrup.
With more eggs and syrup than I knew what to do with, I started wondering what different dishes could I create, and naturally custard came to mind. A custard’s main elements include egg yolks, cream, sweetener and some sort of flavor, be it vanilla, lavender, maple, etc. If you freeze this mixture you have ice cream. If you bake it, you have custard. Add a little starch and you have a pastry cream. If you invert it with caramel, it’s a flan. If you melt sugar on top, you have crème brûlée.
Crème brûlée is a decadent French dessert that dates back to 1691 (and which literally means “burnt cream”). What gives this recipe an extra kick is the addition of maple syrup as the sweetener, maple sugar on top and a good jigger of our own homemade vanilla brandy extract.
We make our extract from Bourbon vanilla beans, which age in brandy for six months, then finish in an oak barrel. The extract has a deep flavor, rich and woodsy. It’s perfect for recipes like custards, vanilla cakes or sugar cookies, where you really want the vanilla flavor to shine. It gives any recipe a second layer of complexity. If you don’t want to wait six months to make this delicious crème brûlée, we hope to be selling our extracts soon! But in the meantime, normal vanilla extract or a vanilla bean added to the cream will work just fine.
Brandy Vanilla and Maple Crème Brûlée
1 egg plus 3 egg yolks
1/2 cup real maple syrup
2 cups cream
1 tablespoon Brandy Vanilla Extract
1/4 cup maple sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
Preheat oven to 325. Beat the eggs and egg yolks with the maple syrup. Heat the cream to a simmer, and add vanilla brandy extract. Stir until combined. Add the hot cream mixture to the eggs little by little, whisking after each addition so as to not scramble the eggs.
Pour the custard into a pie dish, or individual custard cups. Place the cups into another pan and add water till it comes halfway up the sides. Bake for 40 minutes. Let cool.
Once cool, sprinkle the custard with maple sugar, then white sugar. The white sugar helps the maple sugar to caramelize more evenly. We found maple sugar at Great Lakes Custom Meats.
Use a food safe butane torch to “burn” the sugar into a delicious maple caramel crust. You want it to be golden brown. For good luck, I’ve always heard that you should make a wish before breaking the first crack of the crème brûlée crust.