This delicious, silky custard with a crunchy toffee top is a beautiful end to a meal. The custard is made in advance and the toffee only takes a few moments to torch, so it’s a great dinner-party dish.
Prep and cook time: 20 minutes, plus several hours chilling time
600ml thickened cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
8 egg yolks
1/3 cup caster sugar
Additional caster sugar for the top
Place cream, vanilla and lemon zest in a pot over medium high heat and bring almost to the boil.
Meanwhile, beat egg yolks with sugar until thick.
Strain the cream into the eggs. Wipe out the pot and return the mixture to it, over a low heat. Stir continuously until the custard thickens. To test the correct thickness, dip a wooden spoon into the custard. Run your finger along the back of the spoon. If the trail left by your finger stays intact, the custard is thick enough. If it runs or the custard “bleeds” into the mark left by your finger, it needs longer.
Have a sinkful of cold water ready in case the custard begins to split. You will know if this is happening because the texture becomes grainy intead of silky smooth. If this happens, put the pot straight into the sink, add ¼ cup cold cream and whisk like the clappers. With any luck, the custard will come back together – return to the heat if it’s not thick enough (be vigilant!).
When the custard is the right consistency, pour into 150ml ramekins. Refrigerate for several hours until set.
Just before serving, sprinkle caster sugar over the whole surface of the custard, making sure there are no gaps. Using a kitchen blow torch, heat the sugar until it bubbles and turns golden brown. If you like a nice thick caramel topping (as I do), repeat this process.