- 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 quart whole milk
- Peel of 1 lemon, left in 1 or 2 pieces
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 12 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup sugar, plus extra for caramelizing
In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of the milk, and stir to dissolve cornstarch. In a medium saucepan, heat remaining milk with the lemon peel, vanilla bean and seeds, and cinnamon stick, stirring. Just before milk comes to a boil, turn off the heat, cover pan and set aside.
In a large, heavy saucepan whisk together the eggs, sugar and reserved cornstarch mixture. Remove lemon peel from the milk, and slowly add the milk (and cinnamon stick) to the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Place pan over low heat, and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and discard.
Just before serving, heat a flat metal spatula over a hot gas flame. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of sugar over each custard, and then touch the surface of the sugar with the hot spatula just long enough to caramelize it. (Alternative methods for caramelizing are to place ramekins under a broiler, or use a small blow-torch).