I recently dined at one of my favorite restaurants, Va De Vi, and had an orange crème brûlée for dessert. When I dine out, I don’t eat, I investigate (LOL). With each bite my mind races around and thinks what is going on in here? I noticed the crème brûlée had a fairly strong orange flavor, but there was no orange zest visible. I thought hm…maybe they let the orange zest infuse into the cream and strained it out…or I wonder if they used some sort of orange essence or orange oil instead? The first seemed more likely, but I did not know for sure, especially since any evidence of orange zest had been taken out. Well, curious me, I had to know, and asked the waitress to find out. And ah hah! It was the first one, they let the orange zest infuse. When I got home, it was time to make my own version. Is it embarrassing to say that all of these ingredients were already in my fridge? Cream and eggs are always around, and these days there is always a mountain of oranges in my fruit drawer due to oranges being in season. Here’s how to make some silky smooth orange crème brûlée love:
zest of 4 oranges
3 cups heavy cream
1 extra large egg
4 extra large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar +1 tsp for each crème brûlée
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
Zest your oranges, then run a knife through it and chop it up even finer. You want as much of the orange zest to infuse into the cream as possible. Combine the chopped orange zest and the cream, and let it sit in the fridge for 2 hours. The orange zest needs time to infuse into the cream since we will be straining the zest out later.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the egg, egg yolks, and 1/2 cup sugar together on low speed for 2 minutes. Heat the cream in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium high heat until scalded, bringing it almost to a boil, but not quite. An indication of scalding is lots of steam and bubbles forming on the sides. An easier indication? Use your handy dandy instant read thermometer and bring the cream to 180 degrees F.
With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the cream into the egg mixture. Add the vanilla and Grand Marnier, and once it’s all combined, pour the mixture through a fine meshed sieve to strain out the orange zest. Pour the strained custard into ramekins until almost full (I filled 6 4-ounce ramekins and had a tiny bit leftover).
Place the ramekins in a baking pan and pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the crème brûlées only jiggle slightly when shaken. Take the crème brûlées out of the water bath and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until they firm up.
When you’re ready to serve them, sprinkle over 1 tsp of sugar evenly on top of each crème brûlée, and either use a blowtorch or do it old school and use the broiler coils of your oven to caramelize the top (this process happens very quickly. Leave the door open as you broil and watch, don’t walk away from it). A blowtorch will caramelize the top more evenly, but it’s also $25. I think I’ll use my broiler instead for the time being.
Why do you cook this dessert in a water bath? Well, crème brûlée is a custard, and with pretty much any custard, you want to cook it slowly, and at a fairly low temperature. Water will never get hotter than 212 degrees F, so it does a good job of ensuring that your crème brûlée doesn’t overcook and turn into scrambled eggs (we want dessert, not breakfast). I sacrificed a little bit of my crème brûlée and cooked it without a water bath, just to show you the difference (don’t worry, I still ate the overcooked one anyway). The first one didn’t get the water bath, and is overcooked on the edges, and coagulated a bunch (notice the holes). The second one isn’t overcooked on the edges at all, and has a much smoother texture inside (and I tasted both…HUGE difference).
Recipe graciously adapted from Ina Garten’s Creme Brulee Recipe
I would love to hear your comments below. Thanks for reading!