TONY STAPLES: Experience this popular rich dessert with a hint of lavender

Bring the garden indoors this summer by adding a floral touch to a well-known dessert, says Tony Staples, executive head chef, of the Arora Hotel in Crawley.

Thursday, 2nd June 2016, 12:20 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 1:39 am
Crème brûlée and lavender biscuits
Crème brûlée and lavender biscuits

Crème brûlée is a favourite dessert for many people so it would be a crime not to have it on our menu.

But, as always, we like to ring the changes and in the summer months, we make an Earl Grey version of the brûlée and serve it with delicately-flavoured lavender shortbread.

Lavender flowers can be used fresh or dried, but less is definitely more – too much lavender and the shortbread biscuits will become unpleasantly perfumed.

These biscuits will keep for up to a week in an airtight tin and are perfect for dipping into creamy crème brûlée once you have cracked through that all important caramel top.

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Lavender shortbread

1 tsp dried lavender – or half a tsp of fresh lavender

440g cold butter, cubed

200g caster sugar

1 egg

500g flour


Preheat oven to 130oC.

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and whizz until it forms a ball.

Divide into four batches, wrap in Clingfilm and rest in the fridge for at least three hours. At this point you can freeze some of the batches for baking another day once defrosted thoroughly.

Roll out the dough to about 2cms thick and use pastry cutters to cut out desired shapes.

Place on a tray lined with baking parchment and bake for 10-12 minutes until still blond in colour – don’t let them become golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack.

Classic Crème brûlée

Makes 8/10

8 egg yolks

75g caster sugar

Seeds from one vanilla pod

750ml double cream

250ml milk

Tablespoon caster or icing sugar for the top


Whisk the sugar and eggs in a bowl until it thickens.

Put the cream, milk and vanilla seeds in a saucepan and bring to the boil until the liquid begins to rise up.

Pour a little of the boiling liquid onto the sugar and egg mix while continuing to whisk. Then gradually whisk in the rest.

Pour through a sieve back into the saucepan and heat for a few seconds until it just starts to thicken, stirring all the time.

Have a bowl sitting in ice and pour in the hot mixture – the cool bowl will stop the cooking process.

Divide the mixture between eight shallow dishes and place in a roasting tin that has been filled with enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the dishes.

Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes (130oC) until it starts to set, but has a slight wobble. Leave to cool.

If you are not serving immediately, they will keep for up to three days in the fridge.

Do not glaze with the sugar before refrigerating as the sugar will melt.

When ready to serve, sprinkle each dish with sugar and use a kitchen blowtorch to carefully caramelize the sugar. Serve with fresh fruit and lavender biscuits.

Chef’s tip

Blitz up a teaspoon of dried lavender flowers into 100g of granulated sugar. Store in an airtight jar and use to sprinkle over desserts, cakes or ice-cream.

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