Lavender Honey Creme Caramel 

I almost could not endure the anticipation.  Clutching a roadmap, I eagerly keep track of our journey.  Reaching the last turn, I see the tourist sign and (glad I have successfully navigated the way), start to cheer silently in eagerness for the approaching lavender.  Rows upon rows of fragrant lavender at The Bridestowe Estate Lavender Farm – one of the largest commercial lavender farms in the world.

Mr Mélanger and I were aware it was too early for the full blooms, but hoping at least for some dramatic visual of the great expanse of lavender on offer at the farm.  Slowly driving in, you could see the disappointment on my face immediately.  The lavender certainly was not in full bloom, and from a distance, you could not see any flowers at all. 

I look around, admiring the vastness of the lavender that had been planted in this glorious farm.  I pause and squint hoping to squeeze a little more colour into focus.  It was not to be.  Slightly disenchanted, I decide to soak up my sadness by marching straight into the gift store and seek some type of compensation by purchasing an array of lavender based products.  (You certainly cannot have enough.)

Back in Brisbane, I am inspired by our two-week honeymoon in Tasmania and look to combine the unique floral flavour of lavender into caramel month.  I have baked with lavender earlier in the year when I created my lavender macarons.

I wanted to pair the lavender this time with a complementary flavour.  After only a little thinking, I quickly decided that flavour to be honey.  But not any honey.  Tasmanian Leatherwood Honey.  This honey is exclusively native to the world heritage area of Tasmanian West coast wilderness.  It has a distinctive spicy flavour. 

So it was decided.  Lavender + Honey.  And the vessel for this combination?  Crème caramel.

I have been meaning to bake crème caramel beyond the standard (but still delicious) variety.  I could also picture me and Mr Mélanger tucking into one of these sweet and creamy desserts in a cosy little bistro overlooking some of the most spectacular landscapes that Tasmania offers.

Crème caramel is not a difficult dessert to make.  Caramel is cooked and poured into ramekins, and then a simple custard is added.  Chilled and then served, it guarantees a moment of anticipation as you invert the dessert onto a plate – hoping it easily releases from the mould – and then when it does, a smile as you watch the caramel eagerly run down the custard to the plate.

If you are comfortable with making caramel and custard the only area to really watch is the baking time.  You want the end product to jiggle a little.  Baked too long, and you risk scrambled eggs.  Delicious for breakfast, but not for dessert.

I experimented with both of these flavours carefully.  I did not want to overpower the delicate crème caramel.  I must say, the sweet floral of the lavender was a quite a match for the spicy, sweet honey.  I am now scheming in my head all the other flavour combinations I want to try!

Bees

{ Images } Busy Tasmanian Bee

Lavender

{ Images } Rows of fragrant lavender at The Bridestowe Estate Lavender Farm

{ Lavender Honey Crème Caramel }

* Ingredients *
1 cup (250ml) milk
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream
1 teaspoon lavender
3 egg yolks
3 eggs
1 tablespoon leatherwood honey
¼ cup sugar

Caramel
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon water

* Directions *
Grease 4 moulds / ramekins.  Place into a roasting tin, and keep close to hand.  For the caramel, put the sugar and water into a saucepan over a medium heat.  Cook until the sugar has melted and reached a golden caramel colour.  Immediately pour or spoon the caramel into the prepared moulds.  You must do this quickly as the caramel soon starts to harden.  Set the moulds aside.  Preheat the oven to 160C or 320F.  For the custard, bring the milk and cream to a boil.  In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks and eggs with the sugar and honey.  Pour the boiled milk and cream over the eggs slowly, stirring well.  Pass through a very fine sieve, or double sieve if you prefer (particularly to ensure you remove ingredients such as lavender buds).  Pour the custard into the moulds.  Fill the roasting tin about half way with hot water.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until the centre jiggles slightly.  Cool to room temperature then refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.  To serve, run a knife around the edge of the custard, and carefully invert the mould on to a plate.

Serves 4

{ Notes } For a standard crème caramel :: replace the lavender with vanilla, and omit the honey increasing the sugar from ¼ cup to 1/3 cup.