Grapefruit Creme Brulee

I love the freshness and sour edge of a juicy grapefruit. I eat them almost every day all winter long, often with breakfast or as dessert – I love to sprinkle the halves with sugar and broil them for “grapefruit brulee”. This, however, is a whole ‘nother thing. I’m sure you can imagine what happens when you put the word creme between “grapefruit” and “brulee”.

Bright citrus is divine in this rich, creamy dessert. Think lemon meringue pie filling. But with grapefruit. And a caramel layer that cracks satisfyingly when you tap it with your spoon.

The grapefruits I used for this recipe were a variety purchased at a Chinese market. They bore no identifier other than “sweet grapefruit”. When I cut into one, I was shocked that the flesh was orange, not pink or red. It was sweet, as promised, with the bold flavour of grapefruit but with barely any bitterness. I am hooked.

To make the creme brulees, heavy cream is heated with grapefruit zest. Multiple egg yolks are whisked in to thicken the cream and make a custard. Grapefruit juice and vanilla are stirred in, and the custards are gently baked in individual dishes (called ramekins) a warm water bath. Once completely cooled, the custards are topped with sugar and torched, to make the signature, crackable caramel crust.

One tip for working with custards of any kind – keep the heat low, or they may curdle. And nobody wants scrambled eggs in their creme brulee. However, if they do curdle, it’s not the end of the world. A strainer will take out any bits of coagulated egg and no one will know the difference.

Grapefruit Creme Brulee

Makes 6 servings

  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream

  • 6 tbsp sugar

  • zest of 1 grapefruit

  • 6 egg yolks

  • pinch of salt

  • 1/4 cup grapefruit juice

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 12 tsp sugar, for brulee topping

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Arrange 6 (8 ounce/125 mL) ramekins in a large baking dish with 2-inch sides. Set a kettle full of water to boil.

2. Use a microplane or a fine grater to zest the grapefruit. Combine whipping cream, zest and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring to almost a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

3. Whisk egg yolks in large measuring cup or a mixing bowl. In a very slow stream, whisk the hot cream into the egg yolks, about a tablespoonful at a time until fully incorporated. Strain the mixture using a fine-mesh sieve back into the pot. Stir in salt, grapefruit juice and vanilla extract.

4. Divide mixture evenly among the 6 ramekins and pour boiling water halfway up their sides. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until set. Remove from oven and allow custards to cool in the hot water for 30 minutes before transferring to the fridge. Cool at least 4 hours, up to 24 hours.

4. Just before serving, sprinkle each custard evenly with 2 teaspoons of sugar. Use a kitchen torch to heat the sugar until it is bubbly and caramelized. (Alternatively, place them under a preheated broiler for a few minutes, watching very closely to avoid burning). Return to fridge for a few minutes to harden. Serve within a few hours, or the caramel will soften.

Last Updated on February 25, 2012 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD

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