Sicilian Lemon Pudding Cake w/ Basil Syrup & Candied Basil
Basil syrup? Candied basil? Has she lost her mind?
You know I love herbs in baking.
I love sea salt & a hint of black pepper in scones and cookies.
I love rosemary in my fig cakes and sage in my corn muffins.......so why not basil?
I guess I can't wait for summer and my driveway herb garden, so I took the plunge early and bought some ugly looking basil in a plastic box at the grocery store. I rarely buy basil, since I have so much of it in the summer, but that's a long way away.
I saw a lemon & basil creme brulee recipe a while back, and the lemon basil thing has been stuck in my head.
Plus, my friend Rosemary just brought over a huge bottle of Italian Volcano Lemon Juice, so I knew it was time to experiment.
The basil simple syrup is so delicious, I couldn't stop licking the spoon. When you steep the basil, it takes on an anise flavor. Gorgeous.
If you don't want to use it in this pudding cake, then by all means use it in cocktails.
It should last a few weeks in the fridge, and would be delicious w/ some vodka on the rocks.
You could pour it over pound cake, or strawberries or make a granita (which I doubt I will ever attempt to do).
I made a version of my rosemary lemon pudding cakes and substituted the basil syrup for the rosemary.
and instead of serving them in individual ramekins, I made this in a 2 quart baking dish.
The idea of a "pudding cake" is that you bake it in a bain Marie (water bath) so that only the top bakes like a cake, while the bottom portion is nice and soft, like a custard.
And the candied basil?
So easy and pretty.
Instead of sugaring rose petals or violets (because we all do that so often, don't we?), I candied some basil leaves.
You will be glad you did.
This would be a lovely Easter dessert. Bright, lemony and very springy.
Sicilian Lemon Pudding Cake w/ Basil Syrup & Candied Basil:
For the Candied Basil: (adapted from Food52)
1 cup of superfine sugar
1 bunch of basil, leaves separated and stems discarded
1 egg white
Line a baking sheet w/ wax or parchment paper.
Lightly whip an egg white. Dip each leaf in the egg white and shake off excess. Dip leaf in sugar to coat on both sides and place on the wax paper to dry completely, about 12 hours.
These get nice and crispy crunchy and last for a week or more in a sealed container after they have fully dried for 24 hours in the open air. I snacked on them all week. They were best with Haagen Dasz vanilla gelato........just sayin'.
For the Basil Simple Syrup:
1 cup of white sugar
1 cup of water
1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves
Simmer the mixture in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Let steep 10 minutes and cool down. The longer you let the basil leaves steep, the stronger the flavor.
Strain the basil leaves out of the syrup and pour into a jar. Keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
For the Lemon Pudding Cakes: (makes 6-8 ramekins or one 2 quart casserole dish)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup basil simple syrup
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice or Italian Volcano lemon juice (about 3-4 Meyer lemons)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/3 cups whole milk
Butter or spray a 2 qt casserole or individual ramekins and place them in a roasting pan with water going half way up the pan (this way the top half will be cake and the bottom half will be custard).
Beat together the egg yolks and sugar and lemon zest until pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Add in the flour and salt and incorporate.
Now add in the lemon juice, and milk. Whisk until nice and creamy.
In a separate bowl, whip up the egg whites & basil syrup w/ a mixer (or your husband's muscles) until soft peaks form.
Gently fold the egg whites into the batter (it will be kind of thin), and pour into the prepared baking dish.
Bake at 350F for about 50 minutes until the top is golden brown (about 40 minutes for ramekins). Let rest at least 15 minutes before serving.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and garnish with some fresh or candied basil leaves and enjoy.
Best served warm or at room temperature.