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Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

When I dined at the French critical favourite Le Chateaubriand in Paris, one of Restaurant magazine's 50 best restaurants in the world, I had a phenomenal dessert that looked like a fried egg but was, in fact, a caramelized egg yolk sitting on a bed of crushed-nut meringue. The taste was sublime and I wanted to re-create it. Chef and owner Inaki Aizpitarte told me his recipe is a version of tocino de cielo , a dessert from southern Spain that was originally created by nuns who were given leftover egg yolks by wineries, which used the whites for clarification. Mixed with sugar syrup and baked, these incredibly rich, luscious bites evoke crème caramel. This adaptation of his recipe consists of an egg-caramel custard perched on a meringue base.

Servings: 4

Ready time: 4 hours

Meringue

2 egg whites

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Caramel

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon corn syrup

Custard

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

2 2-inch pieces lemon rind

6 egg yolks

Method

Preheat oven to 275 F (140 C).

With an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt until frothy. Slowly add 1/2 cup of sugar, continuing to beat until egg whites are very thick (about 3 to 4 minutes). Beat in lemon juice. Spoon mixture into four mounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using the back of the spoon, form into 5-inch rounds, leaving an indentation in the centre (large enough to fit the egg yolk custard). Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until crisp and creamy-coloured. Remove meringues from oven and cool.

Boil 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 cup of sugar and corn syrup in a heavy pot until golden (about 6 minutes). Pour caramel into four ramekins and swirl each until base is coated.

Increase oven temperature to 350 F (180 C). Combine 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup of sugar and lemon rind in a heavy pot. Bring to boil over medium heat. Cook until thread stage (225 F or 110 C on the sugar thermometer). Remove from heat and discard lemon rind. Set aside. Beat egg yolks with a whisk and slowly whisk in warm syrup until combined.

Divide egg mixture among the ramekins. Place ramekins in a pan large enough to hold them in one layer. Pour boiling water into the pan halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper and bake 20 minutes or until the mixture has set. Remove from oven, carefully taking ramekins out of the hot-water bath. Cool on a rack. Run a sharp knife around the inside of the ramekin to loosen the custard.

Dip ramekins into boiling water to loosen the caramel and turn out onto a meringue base. It will look like a fried egg.

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