Claire Ptak’s recipes for fig leaf creme brulee and buckwheat shortbread | Baking the seasons

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Fig leaves are great for infusing custards and ice-creams with flavour, and they’re quite easy to find. They bring a surprising note of coconut to these creme brulees, and pair brilliantly with buckwheat shortbread

Fig trees can be found in many places in the world, their bright-green, fleur-de lis-shaped leaves providing a welcome dappled shade. In Britain, they grow abundantly, but seldom bear much fruit unless enclosed in a walled garden. The leaves, however, are exactly what I’m after. In California, we wrap the large leaves around freshly caught fish to be grilled on an open fire or baked in the oven. In the sweet kitchen, we gently wash the leaves of any dusty pollen and dunk them into pots of cream or milk to infuse and turn into custards and ice-creams.

The flavour of the fig leaf is difficult to describe – it is somewhere between a fig and a coconut. Its fragrance is heady and a little surprising. For me, it’s best kept simple – a burnt-sugar shell suits it well in the creme brulee below.

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