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Orange Crème Caramel

Just a modest amount of delicately perfumed orange-flower water gives these silky custards with caramel a refined taste and an air of distinction. Orange liqueur and a garnish of candied citrus zest provide additional layers of citrus flavor and lend depth to the dessert.

Ingredients:

For the candied citrus zest: 

  • 1 grapefruit 
  • 1 orange 
  • 1 lemon 
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar 
  • 1 cup water
  •   
  • 2 cups sugar 
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 egg yolks 
  • 1 egg 
  • 2 Tbs. Grand Marnier 
  • 2 tsp. orange-flower water 
  • Pinch of salt 
  • 1 3/4 cups heavy cream 
  • 3/4 cup whole milk 

Directions:

To make the candied citrus zest, using a vegetable peeler and working from top to bottom, remove the zest from each fruit in long, wide strips. Using a paring knife, scrape away any white pith from the undersides. Add the zest strips to a saucepan, cover with 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Drain and repeat, then place the zest strips on paper towels and blot dry.

In a saucepan, combine 1 cup of the sugar and the water. Add the zest strips and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the strips are translucent, 20 to 25 minutes. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup sugar into a bowl. Using a fork, lift the strips from the syrup, drain briefly and transfer the strips to the sugar. Toss the strips in the sugar until evenly coated, then let dry on a plate.

Preheat an oven to 325°F.

To make the custards, in a heavy saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups of the sugar and the water. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, checking often. Once the sugar starts to melt, uncover and swirl the pan occasionally until the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until the sugar turns into a deep amber-brown caramel, 4 to 6 minutes more. Pour the caramel into six 3/4-cup ramekins, dividing it evenly. Wearing an oven mitt, carefully tilt the ramekins to coat the sides with caramel. Place the ramekins in a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, the egg yolks, whole egg, Grand Marnier, orange-flower water and salt. In a saucepan, combine the cream and milk and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. A little at a time, begin whisking the warm cream-milk mixture into the egg mixture until the bottom of the bowl is warm. Whisk in the remaining liquid a little more quickly.

Ladle the egg-cream mixture into the ramekins, dividing it evenly. Transfer the baking dish to the oven and pour enough very hot water into the dish to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the custards jiggle just slightly in the centers when they’re gently shaken, about 35 minutes. Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven and let the custards cool in the water bath for 30 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the water bath, wipe the bottoms dry and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 3 days.

To serve, unwrap the custards and run a knife around the edges of the ramekins to loosen them. Invert the custards onto plates, lift off the ramekins, garnish with the candied citrus zest and serve. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Desserts, by Raquel Pelzel (Oxmoor House, 2008).