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Vanilla Creams with Lime-Sugar Blackberries

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

The lime sugar is great with the blackberries and the cool, smooth, sweet creams, but use any of the Fabulous Flavored Sugar you’d like (see Notes). I love using vanilla paste in these creams so they are flecked with the delicate vanilla bean seeds.

NotesFABULOUS FLAVORED SUGAR

Older cookbooks often instructed readers to “put a vanilla bean in a jar of sugar and wait a month for it to flavor the sugar.” Who has that time now? These “almost–instant” flavored sugars are a boon to busy cooks and berry lovers. Just hull and slice a pint of strawberries, or use a pint of your favorite berries, or an assortment, and stir in one of these flavored sugars. Let the berries sit for 10 to 15 minutes for the sugar to dissolve and the flavors to blend, and you’ve got dessert. Mash some of the berries, if that’s your thing—some of us believe it makes berries taste better.

There are many ways to make these sugars, depending on the equipment you have. If you have a coffee or spice grinder, use it. It’s the best method, because you get the finest result—it grinds the spices most evenly and finely—and you’re making superfine sugar (which will dissolve most quickly on the berries) while you’re at it. Or put the flavoring ingredients in a mortar and pestle (I use a large one from Southeast Asia) and add half of the sugar for the pounding, then stir in the remaining sugar. Or, you can simply stir the ground spices into the sugar in a bowl.

If you’d like, use confectioners’ or brown sugar; confectioners’ sugar will make a slightly thicker syrup with the juices of the berries (because it contains cornstarch), and brown sugar adds a caramelish flavor. Consider a combination of flavors—like mint and lime, ginger and orange, or vanilla and lemon. I’m including serving ideas here using strawberries, but you could substitute a pint of any berry you choose. You can also use these sugars to flavor whipped cream or a cream and crème fraîche.

Serves8

CostModerate

Easy

Total Timeunder 4 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Cooking for a date, Formal Dinner Party

Recipe Coursedessert

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, high-calcium, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Mealbrunch, dinner

Moodromantic

Taste and Texturecreamy, fruity, juicy, rich, sweet

Type of Dishdessert

Ingredients

  • 2 pints half and half
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 envelopes plain gelatin
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla paste or vanilla extract
  • Four ½-pints ripe blackberries
  • A double batch of Lime Sugar

Instructions

  1. STEP 1: Bring the half-and-half, sugar, and salt just to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; remove the pan from the heat. Sprinkle 1 envelope of gelatin over the mixture and whisk until the gelatin is dissolved. Repeat with the remaining 2 envelopes.

  2. STEP 2: Pour the mixture through a fine strainer set over a large glass measure or a bowl. Whisk in the vanilla. Divide the mixture evenly among eight 6-ounce custard cups. Refrigerate, tightly covered, until set and thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours, or for up to 2 days.

  3. STEP 3: Toss together the blackberries and lime sugar in a medium bowl. Let stand for about 15 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved, or for up to 2 hours.

  4. STEP 4: To serve, gently run a table knife around the inside of each custard cup, dip the bottom of the cup in hot water for about 5 seconds, and invert the cream onto a serving plate. Spoon the blackberries and their syrup around the creams and serve.

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