In June I received a kitchen torch as a graduation present from Bryan. Up until then I felt like every recipe I found required that I use a kitchen torch and I often complained that I was unable to cook anything without one. It may seem shocking then that I used the torch for the first time this weekend. I don’t know what happened, but boy am I sorry I waited! I mean, torching the top of these crème brûlées was seriously the most fun I have had in a while. The torch throws some serious heat and it is fascinating to watch the sugar melt and then burn on top of the custard. I felt like a kitchen welder, it was very Flashdance.
I like crème brûlée but was hoping to improve on the classic recipe. I added some orange and cinnamon and think that this really made for an amazing dessert. Because the recipe requires the heating of milk and cream, you can infuse it with a variety of flavors. I’d like to try lavender and lemon (a tablespoon of lavender and some lemon zest?), or fennel seed (a tablespoon crushed?), or even nutmeg (some freshly grated). It will be fun to experiment and each time you do you’ll get to fire up your torch. What a feeling!
Orange-Cinnamon Crème Brûlée (adapted from a Dorie Greenspan recipe)
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 4 large strips of orange zest from 1 orange, each 2 inches long
- 1/2 cinnamon stick
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/3 cup sugar, plus more for topping
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 200° F. Put six baking dishes (each holding about 3/4 cup of liquid) on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
In a small saucepan combine cream, milk, orange zest and 1/2 cinnamon stick and bring to just a boil. Cover pan and remove from heat. Let steep for 30-45 minutes. Strain mixture, reheat over medium heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla together until well blended but not airy. Still whisking, drizzle in about one quarter of the hot liquid—this will warm the yolks so they won’t curdle. Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the remainder of the cream and milk. Strain the custard into the baking dishes.
Bake the custards for 50-60 minutes, or until the centers are set. Let the custards cools to room temperature on a wire rack. Cover each custard with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours, but preferably overnight.
To caramelize the tops, sprinkle the top of one custard with about a tablespoon of granulated sugar. Brown with kitchen torch until golden and bubbling. Wait until bubbles stop before serving. Continue with remaining custards.