While I was making dinner from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, I noticed a simple, summery dessert that I could whip up at the same time. And, coming to think of it, I never do that. I never set out to make a meal including dessert all in one go. Dessert, or most of it depending on what it is, is always made in advance, but this one really is easy enough to prepare right along with dinner. It’s a custard with creme fraiche that’s poured over berries and then gratineed under the broiler. Once browned, it can sit patiently at room temperature while you enjoy your main course. Now speaking of that browning step, I’ve noticed that organic sugar doesn’t behave quite the same as regular sugar. In this case, confectioner’s sugar was suggested, and I used an organic brand, and I don’t think it browned as well as it could have. Deborah Madison confirmed the fact in her book Seasonal Fruit Desserts that for browning or bruleeing, regular sugar works better, but I’m not sure why that is. At any rate, these little desserts only sit under the broiler long enough to become bubbly and a little browned, so it didn’t matter much here.
An easy custard was made with warmed milk slowly whisked into a mixture of egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch. That was returned to a saucepan and thickened. Butter and salt were added while it was warm, and then the custard was chilled in the refrigerator for a bit. Once cool, creme fraiche was folded into it. In the book, the dessert is made with raspberries, but I had blackberries, and any kind of berries or really just about any fruit would work. In the intro to the recipe, sauteed apples or pears with dried fruit is suggested for a winter version of this. The blackberries were tossed with a little granulated sugar and then scattered in ramekins in my case. The dessert can also be made in one, larger gratin dish. The custard was spooned over the berries, more berries were placed on top, confectioner’s sugar was sifted over each ramekin, and they were placed under the broiler for about seven minutes. I dusted them with a little more confectioner’s sugar before serving.
What you get is a warm, vanilla pudding with a partially browned, set surface, rich, tangy flavor from creme fraiche, and warm, juicy berries. If you wanted to do what I usually do which is to have dessert mostly ready long before I start tackling dinner preparations, you could just refrigerate the gratins until you’re ready to broil them right before serving. Either way, it’s a simple dessert that has me looking forward to other seasonal variations.