Everyone should be able to make creme brûlée. The creamy baked custard is one of the fastest desserts to whisk together, and infinitely adaptable. There’s nothing wrong with a basic creme brûlée, or one spiked simply with vanilla, but orange is a delicious pairing with the crackly burnt sugar topping. The bright citrus is perfect for spring; make them ahead and chill them for showers, brunches or dinner parties, and serve them with simple cookies, shortbread, berries or squares of dark chocolate. Divine!
Heating the cream with the orange zest helps infuse it with flavour; the same process may be used with fresh ginger, or if you’re doing a plain creme brûlée, you can merely whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cream without heating it at all.
The custards are baked in a water bath – also known as a bain marie – which ensures the heat is delivered gently and evenly, preventing you from winding up with curdled, scrambled eggy creme brûlée. If you don’t have a torch or don’t want to bother with the crackly top, you could skip it entirely, and call it a pot de creme.
Burnt Orange Crème Brûlée
adapted from Epicurious
2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
1 cup whole milk
Grated zest of two oranges
12 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for tops
Preheat the oven to 325°F
In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, milk, and orange zest and heat until the surface is steamy, without letting it boil. Remove from the heat and let stand, stirring occasionally, until the cream mixture cools to room temperature.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whisk together the egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar. Whisk in the cream. Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve set over a large glass measuring pitcher or bowl, then divide the custard evenly among 6 ramekins. Place in a 9″ x 13″ baking dish and pour water into the dish to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the custards are just set, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the water bath to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.
Once well chilled, sprinkle about 1 Tbsp. sugar evenly over each custard. Using a blowtorch, pass the flame above the sugar until it melts and turns golden brown. (Alternatively, preheat the broiler and broil the custards on a baking sheet, about 4 to 6 in from the heat source to melt the sugar. Let the crème brûlée stand at room temperature until the sugar hardens, 1 to 2 minutes. Serves 6.