Coffee-Rum Caramel Custard and Lime Tuile Cookies

This classic custard, baked with a rich, silky caramel sauce, gets an extra kick from a splash of rum. The creamy coffee custard is paired with crisp lime tuile cookies molded into the shape of French country roof tiles.

Yield: 8-10 servings

Caramel Base
1/3 c. sugar
2 tbsp. water

2 c. milk
1/3 c. sugar
5 lg. eggs
2 tbsp. rum
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. coffee extract

Espresso Coffee Extract
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. finely ground espresso coffee

Lime Tuile Cookies
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. grated lime rind
2 egg whites
1/3 c. flour
1/2 c. sliced almonds

Garnish (optional)
Fresh flowers

To make the caramel base:
Put the sugar and water in a saucepan, and stir to moisten sugar. Boil over med-high heat until the mixture turns a deep caramel color. Pour the caramel into the bottom of a 6 c. soufflé mold, and set aside.

For the coffee extract:
Bring the milk to a boil, add the espresso, and stir. Remove from heat. Cover, and let it steep for 2-3 minutes. Strain through paper towels.

To make the custard:
Preheat oven to 350°. Bring milk and sugar to a boil in a saucepan. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a bowl, then add rum, cream, and coffee extract. When milk is boiling, pour 1/2 into the egg mixture, and mix well with a whisk. Add the other 1/2 of the milk, and mix enough to combine.

Set the mold in a larger pan, so the custard can be cooked in a water bath. Strain the custard into the mold. Add tepid water to the pan surrounding the mold to extend 3/4 of the way up the outside of the mold. Bake for 1 hour. Should the water begin to boil, ladle some out, and replace with a few ice cubes.

Cool the custard for 5-6 hours or overnight, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate again until served.

To unmold the custard:
Run a knife around the edge of the custard to loosen it from the inside of the bowl. Place a platter, top side down, on top of the custard, invert the custard onto the platter, and remove the mold.

To make the cookies:
Preheat oven to 400°. Line a cookie sheet with a nonstick baking mat. Break the butter into a food processor, and add the sugar. Process 10 seconds. Add the vanilla, lime rind, and egg whites, and process 5 seconds.

Add the flour, and process to incorporate. Transfer dough to a mixing bowl.

Spoon 2 tbsp. of batter onto the lined cookie sheet. Only put 3-4 cookies on each sheet as they will spread. Using the back of a teaspoon, spread the dough to 5-6" in diameter, with even thickness. Batter should be very thin. Sprinkle with almonds after spreading. Bake for 10 minutes. They should be browned. Let the cookies cool for 1 minute. Run a knife under the cookies to release them and place them in a baguette mold or over a rolling pin to give them a curved shape. Be gentle with the cookies and work quickly, as they will harden fast. Store in an airtight container so they don't soften.

To serve:
Decorate the custard with flowers. Serve a large spoonful of the custard with some of the sauce and a lime tuile cookie.

Recipe courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf, ©2001 Jacques Pépin