One of my favourite baking books this year has been David Lebovitz' Room for Dessert. The recipes aren't just varied and innovative and gorgeous to look at and devour - they're also swimming in booze.
I can't resist a dessert that's had a splash of something stronger thrown in and David proves something of a baking bartender: Cointreau-laced orange poppyseed cookies, chocolate almond biscuits with just a bit of dark rum, the list goes on. But what really caught my eye was a custard recipe: it called for a liqueur I hadn't heard of before, nocino. Nocino, a dark treacly-looking nectar made from green walnuts soaked in alcohol. Perhaps I'm naive and this magical sounding potion isn't as obscure as I thought but I had made it finding it my mission. After vain attempts to locate it during a holiday in Italy, I gave in an ordered it from an Italian specialities website.
And so at long last I'd made the lovely (albeit slightly modified) custard cups over Christmas and they proved to be gorgeous gateways into a complete obliteration of my diet.
Anyway, the main point about these lovely treats isn't the nocino - it's the fact that while most liqueur-enhanced sweets loose their potency during baking, these retain a fabulously boozy taste, a truly adult treat with a festive twist. I can't wait to try them with absinthe. My oh my. A pudding fit for the green fairy.
Adapted from David Lebovitz. Serves 4.
- 1 cup double (heavy) cream
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 40g caster sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 3 Tbsp Nocino
- A few drops of vanilla
You'll also need: 4 ramekins, a saucepan, a medium to large ovenproof dish, as well as a whisk and kitchen foil
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl and set aside. Heat the cream, milk, butter and sugar in a saucepan over low-medium heat. When the sugar has dissolved and the cream is hot but not boiling, slowly pour one third of the mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Pour the egg yolk mix back into the saucepan, continuining to whisk. Turn off the heat and stir in the nocino or another strong liqueur (the nocino I have is 40% alcohol) plus a few drops of vanilla extract. Pour into ramekins.
Place the ramekins in the ovenproof dish and fill the dish about half way up with water. Cover it tightly with kitchen foil and carefully place in the oven. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes until the custards are just a bit jiggly. Let stand to cool. I found these to be much better chilled but who am I to stop you from eating them warm?