There is a traditional British nursery rhyme that begins “Oranges and lemons say the bells of St Clement’s...” which has led to the combination of orange and lemon being referred to as St Clement’s here. For example, if you order a ‘St Clement’s’ in a pub, you will be served orange juice and fizzy lemonade mixed together and a St Clement’s cake would contain both lemon and orange flavours. Hence the name of my custards, which are actually very similar to a flavoured crème brûlée, without the sugar topping.
They came about in a rather interesting way. First of all, I was looking for something delicious to make in the gorgeous heart shaped Le Creuset ramekins my husband had bought for me. Then I was inspired by this recipe for Lemon Creams with Lemon Biscuits which I saw on television. However I wasn’t convinced I wanted to make something exactly like that recipe as I wanted a less tart flavour and a bit of a thicker texture. I also wanted to cut back a bit on the cream as I honestly do feel it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Then when I was talking to my son about my plan, he suggested that I use orange with the lemon to balance the flavours - which I thought was a very, very good idea. And so, my St Clement’s Custards were born. They are not good for you in the sense that they are very much a treat, but they are good for you in the sense that they contain wholesome ingredients. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
The reason this dessert is so gorgeous and creamy is the way it is cooked. You need a large pan or pans to sit the ramekins in, something that is deep enough to allow you to put boiling water in it right up to the middle of the ramekins. It goes without saying to be careful when you put the pans in the oven and when you take them out!
Please use fresh oranges and lemons for this. For the amount of juice required, you will need 1 to 2 lemons and 2 oranges, depending on their size and how juicy they are.
My heart shaped ramekins are fairly large, so the recipe only fills five of them, but if you wanted to serve six, just use ordinary ramekins.
6 eggs, beaten well
1⅓ cups white sugar
the zest of one lemon and one orange
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup orange juice
1 cup heavy cream
I use an electric mixer for this, but a whisk will do if you have strong arms. Beat the sugar into the beaten eggs. Add the lemon and orange zest and the juices and mix in.
Add the cream and beat together for about a minute, until the mixture is smooth but not too bubbly. Set aside for a few minutes while you get everything else ready.
Preheat your oven to 325℉ (about 160℃). Fill your kettle and put it on to boil, and get your deep pan or pans ready.
Sit the ramekins in the pan(s) and carefully pour the custard into the ramekins, about three-quarters full. Being very careful not to splash any water into the ramekins, slowly and carefully pour boiling water into the larger pan(s) so that it comes up half way on the ramekins.
You can just see the water half way up the ramekins in the photograph above. This is how they should look before going into the oven. Be careful not to splash water in the custards as you put the pan(s) in the oven.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the mixture firms up a bit and the tops begin to brown. There should still be a slight wobble going on, but not too much of one! The larger the ramekins the longer the cooking time. Mine take a good 25 minutes - the smaller ones take about 20 minutes. Unfortunately you do need to keep a close eye on them.
When they are done, carefully remove the pans from the oven and sit them on a heat proof surface. Still using oven mitts, carefully lift the ramekins out of the water and place them on a wire rack. (Be careful when emptying the water out of the big pans, as it will very, very hot.)
You need to leave these to cool for at least a half an hour, but they can be eaten anytime after that while they are still warm. They tend to separate if refrigerated, so I recommend serving them within a couple hours of making them.