Maple Ginger Crème Brulée With Candied Walnuts

Makes 8 servings
Level of Difficulty: Medium

Maple syrup and fresh ginger make wonderful companions when mixed with eggs, cream, and a little sugar. If ginger is a passion, add an extra teaspoon (5 mL). The candied walnuts are also delicious eaten on their own or can be used to decorate the Apple and Orange Walnut Cake. If you prefer a traditional crème brûlée, leave out the ginger and substitute ¼ cup (60 mL) granulated sugar for the maple syrup.


1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
5 cups (1.2 L) 18% cream
9 large egg yolks
pinch of kosher salt
¼ cup + 1 Tbsp. (75 mL) maple syrup
2 tsp. (10 mL) grated fresh ginger
½ to ¾ cup (120 to 180 mL) fine sugar, (see Cook’s Tip)

Candied Walnuts
16 walnut halves
2 Tbsp. (30 mL) maple syrup
1 ½ tsp. (7.5 mL) minced fresh lemon thyme (optional)


Preheat the oven to 325ºF (165ºC).

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and, with the blunt side of a paring knife, scrape the seeds into the cream.

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, add the cream and the scraped pod. Scald the cream-vanilla pod mixture (see Cook’s Tip 3). Immediately remove from heat and set aside until lukewarm. Once lukewarm, remove the vanilla bean pod and discard.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks together with the salt, maple syrup, and ginger until well combined.

Slowly, to prevent the eggs from scrambling, stir the lukewarm cream into the egg mixture. Skim off any bubbles that have formed.

Ladle the cream-and-egg mixture into eight ¾-cup (180-mL) ramekins or small gratin dishes, or for one large custard, into a 6-cup (1.5-L) oven-proof dish. When ladling, make sure to get vanilla bean seeds into each ramekin or dish. (You may have a little custard left over.) Cover each ramekin with tin foil.

Place the foil-covered ramekins into a roasting pan with high sides and put in the oven. Pour warm water into the roasting pan until the water is halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 30 to 55 minutes depending on the size and depth of dish you have used. When done, a skewer plunged into the center of a custard should come out clean. The custard will be slightly wobbly in the middle.

Cool the dishes on a counter for about an hour, before refrigerating for at least 2 hours. The Crème Brûlée can be made 24 hours ahead and refrigerated until it is time to brûlée the tops (see Cook’s Tips). An hour before serving, remove from the refrigerator and generously sprinkle the tops of each custard with sugar. Brûlée the tops with a propane torch or place the ramekins under a very hot broiler (see Cook’s Tip 2) until the sugar is melted and turns golden brown. Do not return to the refrigerator. Your brûléed top will “melt.”
Before serving, top each dish with two candied walnuts.

For the Candied Walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC).

Warm a frying pan slightly over medium heat. Add the walnuts in one layer and cook for about one minute, shaking the pan continuously.

Add the maple syrup and cook for 15 to 20 seconds more or until the syrup disappears, making sure not to burn the nuts. Toss in the lemon thyme. Transfer the walnuts onto a baking sheet, in one layer, and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, taking care not to burn the nuts. Remove the candied walnuts from the pan immediately and cool.

Cook’s Tips
1. It is important that the custards are cold before you start the brûléeing process. If they are not, the beautiful, hard surface will turn to liquid sugar within an hour or so.
2. When using a hot broiler to caramelize the sugar, place the ramekins in a larger oven-proof dish half filled with ice water. This will prevent the custard from overheating.
3. Scald milk by heating it in a heavy bottomed saucepan until tiny bubbles form around the inside edges of the pot. Remove the pot from the heat and cover. This allows the milk to become infused with flavours, in this case vanilla and nutmeg.

Linda Haynes is the co-founder of ACE Bakery and the award-winning author of the bestseller, "The ACE Bakery Cookbook". All royalties from this cookbook are given to organizations in support of food and nutrition programs that assist low-income members of the community, to culinary scholarships, and to organic farming initiatives. Royalties from "More from ACE Bakery" cookbook are donated to organizations that work with women and children in crisis.

Established in 1993, ACE Bakery is now one of North America's leading artisan bakeries, providing fresh and partially baked breads to customers across Canada, New York State, the Midwest and Northeast U.S.A., Louisiana and the Bahamas, as well as on Air Canada and Air France flights.

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