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Crème brûlée adds creamy, crunchy twist to tradition

Prepare custard in advance for simple serving after dinner

Though Thanksgiving traditionally is a holiday of pies, a creamy, sweet and crunchy crème brûlée – essentially a candy-coated custard – is an appealing way to shake things up.

The custard for this fresh ginger-infused crème brûlée can easily be prepared a day or two ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator.

Then, while some of your helpers clear the table, you sprinkle some sugar on top of the premade custard, throw it under the broiler for a few minutes to create the caramel crust and you are ready to serve it topped with fresh raspberries.

This dish also can be cooked in individual ramekins using the same technique. The cooking time will be roughly the same.

Fresh Ginger Crème Brûlée

2 cups half-and-half

4-inch piece unpeeled fresh ginger, coarsely chopped

14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup sugar

1 pint fresh raspberries

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high, heat the half-and-half, stirring constantly, until steaming but not boiling.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the ginger. Cover and set aside to steep for 20 minutes.

After the half-and-half and ginger have steeped, bring a kettle of water to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, eggs, vanilla and salt until slightly frothy. Slowly whisk in the hot half-and-half and ginger mixture. Pour the mixture through a mesh strainer into a shallow 1- or 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Discard the solids in the strainer.

Set the dish in a larger, shallow roasting pan. Set the pans in the oven, then pour enough boiling water from the kettle into the roasting pan to come halfway up the side of the baking dish.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until set around the edges but still slightly wiggly at the center. Remove the custard from the water bath, set on a rack and let cool to room temperature. Once cooled, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

When ready to serve, heat the broiler. Remove the custard from the refrigerator, uncover and blot off any excess moisture from the top with a paper towel.

Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the top, making sure the edges are covered. Broil at least 6 inches from the heat source until the sugar is melted and caramelized, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the dish as needed to ensure even browning. Let cool for a few minutes. Serve immediately (best within 2 hours so the crust remains firm), garnished with the raspberries.

Yield: 8 servings

Approximate nutrition per serving: 278 calories, 6 grams fat (3 grams saturated, 19 percent fat calories), 8 grams protein, 50 grams carbohydrate, 97 milligrams cholesterol, no dietary fiber, 168 milligrams sodium.