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Crème Brûlée with Caramelized Blood Oranges

If you want a truly magnificent dessert, sure to impress anyone, make this recipe. A thick layer of melt-in-your-mouth vanilla custard is topped with a crackling burnt sugar crust and slices of tart, caramel-coated blood oranges. Swap in regular orange slices if you can’t find blood oranges.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 8 egg yolks

For the caramelized blood oranges:

  • 2 blood oranges
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbs. water
  • 6 to 8 tsp. turbinado sugar

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 300°F. Have ready 6 to 8 shallow custard cups or ramekins, each 1/2 to 1 cup, and a baking pan large enough to hold all the cups.

In a saucepan, stir together the cream, granulated sugar and salt. Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds with the back of a paring knife. Add the seeds and pod to the cream mixture. Bring to a very gentle boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat, cover and let stand for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the egg yolks just to break them up. While whisking constantly, slowly add the cream mixture to the yolks. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a pitcher. Divide the mixture among the custard cups. Place the cups in the baking pan and carefully pour hot water into the pan to reach about halfway up the sides of the cups. (It’s usually easiest to add the water once you place the pan on the oven rack.) Bake until the custards are just set but still jiggly, 30 to 35 minutes.

Carefully remove the custards from the water bath, place on a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the custards to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until the custards are thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

To make the caramelized oranges, trim the ends from each orange, then remove the peel with a paring knife, following the contour of the fruit and making sure to remove all the white pith. Cut each orange crosswise into thin slices, removing any seeds as you go. In a saucepan, stir together the granulated sugar and water. Cook over medium-high heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the syrup turns a deep amber caramel. Immediately remove from the heat, add the orange slices and swirl the pan to coat them evenly.

Just before serving, preheat a broiler. Sprinkle each custard with about 1 tsp. of the turbinado sugar, covering the surface with a thin, even layer. Place the custards on a baking sheet and slide into the broiler about 3 inches from the heat source. The sugar will melt quickly and caramelize; watch carefully so that the custards do not burn. Alternatively, melt and caramelize the sugar with a kitchen torch according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Set the custards aside to harden for a few minutes, then top with some of the caramelized oranges. Serves 6 to 8.

Baker’s note: A kitchen torch gives you control over melting the sugar on top of a crème brulée into a thin layer that can be shattered with a spoon. A broiler works too, but watch the custards closely and rotate them to melt the sugar evenly.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Home Baked Comfort, by Kim Laidlaw (Weldon Owen, 2011).