Orange-Cinnamon Crème Brûlée

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.

17 comments to “Orange-Cinnamon Crème Brûlée”

  1. I am new to the wonderful world of food/cooking blogs, and I just had to tell you that yours is my favorite! Amazing recipes and photography! I can’t wait to make this creme brulee!

  2. Karin's Mom says:

    January 13th, 2009 at 2:02 am

    I like the writing on the creme brule. Too me, most of the tv cooks are very inane, boring, and overly cheerful. These people get paid a “lottie” and could do better. Even cookbooks lack sparkle and pzazzzz. I think it is time for you to write your own cookbook.

  3. Pam- Welcome! and Thanks!

    Karin’s Mom- Thanks, you’ll be the first one to get a copy of any future cookbooks. !!!

  4. How gorgeous. I often feel like I cannot survive without a kitchen torch, too. Do you recommend a certain model or source for one?

  5. Maggie- I got mine at Sur La Table and it seems to work great. (It is also available on their website) That being said, there are cheaper well-reviewed ones on Amazon, at least one of which looks like exactly the same torch. Most of these don’t come with butane, so be sure to order that too. Happy torching!

  6. Flashdance! Hilarious!!

  7. Oh yummmmy yum yum. We need a mini torch stat!

  8. Oh my!! Best pictures of creme brulee ever. I used to make creme brulee at college all the time. Love the stuff!

  9. This stuff was crazy delicious! I think you should make a crème fraîche crème brûlée and chastise commenters who don’t use the proper accents.

  10. I too find it fascinating to watch the sugar melt and form that caramelly layer. Once I even felt compelled to poke my finger at it while it was still hot. Bad mistake, of course.

  11. “I want to go to there.” you can make ten of these for your treat day on my birthday, if you like. in addition to a 4 layer birthday cake, of course. I’ll give you a ride that day…maybe.

  12. mmmmm i love creme brule also and this is a wonderful recipe.

  13. If you don’t have a torch can you use the broiler? Also, you never do the whole “water bath” baking process? I want to make these for dessert tomorrow. They look yummy.

  14. P.S. Love the site. Made your favorite cake for my 12 year olds birthday and everyone RAVED.

  15. Hi Susie: So glad you liked the cake.
    Yes, you can broil. Greenspan suggests filling a shallow roasting pan with ice cubes and putting the ramekins on the ice. Put them under the broiler and watch constantly. I haven’t tried this method, so if you do- let me know! Good luck!

  16. Ok – update.

    The creme brulee was delicious. I put in caradamom pods instead of cinnamom because the rest of the dinner was Indian (I’m learning).

    The broiler worked OK – the custardy part got softer than I would have wanted, I think the torch would do a better job and the fun factor would be higher.

    It was really really good otherwise! Thanks – Susie

  17. this is my first time visiting your blog and I have to tell you, I think it’s beautiful! wonderful pictures, creative recipes, and I really can’t wait to make this particular recipe. Thank you for being a great inspiration to fellow food bloggers like myself

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