Ginger-Lemongrass Crème Brûlée with Tropical Fruit Relish

Steven Alex Vanderpool

Cuvée Beach Cellar & Wine Bar Restaurant, Destin, FL

There’s a reason why crème brûlée went from being an obscure medieval dessert served at Cambridge University, where it was known as “burnt cream,” to its de rigueur status on just about every restaurant dessert menu in the western world: it’s delicious. This version, served at the Beard House by Steven Alex Vanderpool, was a hit. The ginger and lemongrass make things interesting and cut through the richness of the custard without overpowering it.


Crème Brûlée:
  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 3/4 ounce fresh ginger, peeled and sliced (about a 1-inch knob)
  • 1/2 stalk lemongrass (about 1 1/2 ounces), sliced
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup for brûléeing
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
  • 1 small, ripe papaya, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 small, ripe pineapple, peeled and diced
  • Juice and zest of 1 orange
  • 5 fresh mint leaves, finely shredded
  • 1/4 cup plum wine
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted


Combine the heavy cream, ginger, lemongrass, and vanilla bean in a saucepan and set over medium-high heat to scald. Simmer for 1 minute, and turn off the heat. Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks and the 3/4 cup sugar with a whisk. Beat a few tablespoons of the hot cream mixture, flavorings and all, into the yolk mixture to temper it, and then beat in the rest of the cream mixture in a steady steam. Cover this mixture and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300˚F. Strain the mixture and divide among 10 to 14 ramekins or small, shallow gratin dishes. Leave about 1/8 inch of head space at the top of each dish. Place the filled dishes in a large roasting pan or baking dish and set in the preheated oven. Using a pitcher, pour hot water into the large pan to reach about 3/4 of the way up the side of the dishes. Close the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the custard has set but not colored. Turn off the oven, open the door, and let sit for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the pan from the oven, being sure not to splash any water into the custard. Remove the ramekins from the water bath, wipe, let cool, and chill.

Meanwhile, prepare the relish by combining all of its ingredients. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

To finish the brûlées, just before you intend to serve them, evenly coat the top of each with a scant teaspoon of the remaining sugar. Using a blowtorch or a hot iron, caramelize the sugar to an even, medium brown color, not black. Keeping the flame a few inches above the surface of the brûlées helps ensure even caramelization. Serve immediately with the relish on the side.


10 to 14 servings, depending on the size of the dishes