Grapefruit Creme Brulee
Preparing, torching and serving this Grapefruit Creme Brulee is bound to make you feel like the kitchen superstar you are. Rich custard is flavored with sweet grapefruit juice and zest for a refreshing twist on a classic dessert.
If there’s one dish that exemplifies the “home chef” philosophy of this blog, I think it would have to be creme brulee.
Along with oven bacon, it was one of the first things I was taught to make in culinary school (although I had already made it at home before that). I hardly ever order dessert at restaurants, but when I do, it’s creme brulee.
And I think it defines “simple, yet special” when it comes to cooking at home for loved ones. Preparing it, torching it (!) and serving it is bound to make you feel like the kitchen superstar that you are.
Sometimes I’ll do coconut creme brulee, but this time of year, my fridge is overflowing with all kinds of citrus fruit, but most especially sweet grapefruit.
This grapefruit creme brulee is my home chef love letter to whoever invented the blow torch.
What you’ll need for this grapefruit brulee recipe:
- heavy cream – I use heavy whipping cream for this recipe, and that’s it. Some people use a combination of cream and milk, but if I’m splurging and making creme brulee, I like it extra rich (cream is also what I use to make my microwave caramel sauce decadent).
- granulated sugar – you’ll need this for both the custard and for sprinkling on top to torch.
- egg yolks – you’ll need the yolks of 6 large eggs for grapefruit creme brulee. Serious Eats has a bunch of ideas for what to do with leftover egg whites.
- fresh grapefruit juice – you’ll need 2 tablespoons of juice from a fresh sweet grapefruit. The sweet grapefruits are usually from Texas, and should be labeled as such at your store.
- grapefruit zest – but before you juice your grapefruit, make sure to zest the whole thing first!
- vanilla extract – use a high quality extract for creme brulee.
- kosher salt – just a pinch. The finished dessert won’t taste salty, but it will taste balanced.
- fresh fruit to garnish – this is optional, but I love including some grapefruit segments and a few fresh berries on top when serving creme brulee.
- blowtorch – you can use a specially made kitchen blowtorch, or just one from the hardware store. I use the full size hardware store kind.
- ramekins or creme brulee dishes – you’ll need six ceramic ramekins or dishes that are oven safe and will hold at least 5 ounces of liquid for this grapefruit creme brulee recipe.
Prep the ramekins and roasting pan:
The first step to this recipe is preheating your oven to 300 degrees F and bringing a tea kettle of water to a boil on the stove.
You will need a roasting pan or a very large baking pan with high sides for this grapefruit creme brulee recipe. If you have a big pan you break out once a year for baked ham with pineapple sauce or root beer ribs, well, now you’ll need to break it out twice a year.
All of the ramekins need to fit onto the bottom of the pan in an even layer.
Once the custard mixture is prepared (more on that below), you will be dividing it between the ramekins. Then, place the roasting pan with the filled ramekins onto a pulled-out oven rack.
Carefully pour boiling water from the kettle into the pan around the ramekins. Be sure not to get any water into any of the custards.
You want to fill the pan with enough water so that the hot water comes up to the halfway point of each ramekin. This hot water bath will allow the custard to cook evenly without cracking.
Once the hot water is poured in, carefully push the oven rack with the roasting pan on it fully into the oven.
A note about ramekin size:
Size DOES matter for creme brulee ramekins, for this recipe and every other type, including chocolate creme brulee. Not only will you need six 6 ounce ramekins, but you’ll need to pay attention to the shape of them and how it will relate to the baking time for this recipe.
In the photos you see in this post, I’m using wide and shallow ramekins, and my custard took about 36 minutes to bake until it was just set (the middles still trembled slightly, while the custard was set on the outer edges).
If you use narrow and deep ramekins, start at 35 minutes and continue baking, checking every 5 minutes until your custard is just set. It could take up to an hour.
How to make the custard for grapefruit creme brulee:
In a small saucepan, combine the cream and 6 tablespoons of sugar. Heat this over medium heat until the cream just starts to bubble around the edges of the pan. Watch it carefully, because you don’t want the mixture to come to a full rolling boil.
While you’re keeping one eye on the cream, grab a large bowl and whisk together the egg yolks, grapefruit juice, vanilla, salt and remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar.
Once the cream mixture starts to bubble, grab a ladle and slowly add 4 ladles of the hot cream mixture to the egg mixture while whisking constantly.
Then, whisk the remaining cream into the egg mixture while continuing to whisk.
Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large liquid measuring cup. Don’t skip this step! Just like with my apple rose tart, it’s important to ensure the smoothest, creamiest final product.
AFTER you strain, stir in the grapefruit zest (don’t do it before, or the strainer will just catch all the zest!). Then, divide the strained grapefruit creme brulee mixture between the ramekins in the roasting pan.
Bake the custards 35 to 40 minutes or until they are JUST set. Gently shake one of the ramekins, and the custard should tremble slightly in the middle but be set on the outer edges.
Some tips for torching:
First of all, you want to be sure to get an EVEN layer of sugar across the surface of each custard.
I sprinkle the tablespoon of sugar across the custard as evenly as I can, and then I kind of tilt and shake and shimmy the ramekin until it’s even more evened out.
Once you start torching the sugar, it’s important to remember to keep the torch moving constantly so none of the areas burn.
Personally, I’ve found it easiest to brown the sugar in stages. Meaning, first I torch the entire surface of the sugar until it is light golden brown.
And then I go back and keep torching until everything is medium golden brown. And then again until it’s all dark golden brown.
As soon as you start to smell any sugar burning, stop torching immediately. Dark brown sugar is delicious, but burnt sugar is just bitter.
For the Custard:
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 9 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
- 6 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons fresh grapefruit juice (make sure to zest the grapefruit first)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Zest of 1 grapefruit
For the Topping:
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Grapefruit segments and fresh blueberries, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F; heat large kettle of water to boiling. Place six 6-ounce ramekins (see Home Chef Tip below) in roasting pan.
- In small saucepan, heat cream and 6 tablespoons sugar over medium heat 6 to 7 minutes until cream just starts to bubble around edges of pan (do not bring to a full boil).
- Meanwhile, in large bowl, whisk egg yolks, grapefruit juice, vanilla, salt and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar until well combined. While whisking, use ladle to slowly add 4 ladlefuls of hot cream mixture to egg mixture. Gradually whisk in remaining cream mixture. Strain through fine mesh strainer into large liquid measuring cup. Stir in grapefruit zest.
- Divide custard mixture between ramekins; place roasting pan in oven. Add enough boiling water to come halfway up sides of the ramekins. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until custards are just set (they should tremble slightly in the middle, but be set on outer edges).
- Use tongs or pancake turner to carefully transfer ramekins to cooling rack; let stand 30 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 4 hours or up to 2 days before serving.
- To serve, sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over each custard. Using blowtorch, caramelize top of each custard until sugar bubbles and turns brown (this can also be done under a broiler). Top with grapefruit segments and blueberries and serve immediately.
Home Chef Tip: If your ramekins are wide and shallow, your custard may bake a little faster. If your ramekins are narrow and deep, you will likely need to bake your custard longer.In the photos you see in this post, I'm using wide and shallow ramekins, and my custard took about 36 minutes to bake until it was just set. If you use narrow and deep ramekins, start at 35 minutes and continue baking, checking every 5 minutes until your custard is just set. It could take up to an hour.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 645Total Fat: 49gSaturated Fat: 29gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 351mgSodium: 130mgCarbohydrates: 45gFiber: 1gSugar: 41gProtein: 11g