Sunday, November 1, 2015

pomelo curd crème brûlée

Is it "un-American" to not hand out candy during Halloween? My parents and I wrestled with the idea for a solid 3 minutes before deciding that it wasn't and went to our favorite celebratory restaurant far away from home (just in case the trick-or-treaters followed us). If karma is a thing, it sure hasn't hit me yet because I'm sitting here at my desk with a smile and cup of crème brûlée that I smuggled from the buffet line. 
You know when a crème brûlée is good when it is felony-worthy good. 

And while the crème brûlée I had at the restaurant was the inspiration for this recipe, I didn't want to just copy it. I wanted to make an elevated crème brûlée, one that after your first bite you can't stop eating until all the cows and chickens say enough is enough. The resulting concoction, the convergence of a pumelo sale at the store, my experience at the restaurant, and the all-important cow-chicken factor, was this Pumelo Curd Creme Brulee. No need to thank me. Just enjoy. 

You will be surprised at how easy this recipe is for being so exotic-tasting and sounding. For those of you who shy away from crème brûlée because you think it is this impossible French thing, think again. Crème brûlée is super, super easy and worthwhile to make. In this recipe, I spike custard with pumelo zest, top it with rich pumelo curd and a layer of brûléed sugar. Honestly, few things in this world are more sensual than this. Without further-ado, let's get started!


for the crème brûlée
2 cups of heavy cream
1/2 cup of milk
zest of 1 pomelo
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon of salt

for the pomelo curd
3/4 cup of sugar
zest of one pomelo
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1/2 cup pomelo juice
1/8 teaspoon of salt
demerara sugar for brûléeing

1. Firstly, clean out the oven that also serves as a storage cabinet. Then, preheat it to 325F.

2. Clean and zest two whole pumelos and juice one of them. Try to avoid zesting the white pith because it's bitter. We'll only need the zest of one pummelo for the crème brûlée
, but we'll need the other half and juice for the curd. 

3. In a medium saucepot, heat up the cream, milk, and half of the pumelo zest (the zest of one pumelo) until you see small bubbles forming on the sides and steam coming off from the top. Take the cream mixture off the heat to steep and cool.

4. While your cream is cooling, separate and whisk the five egg yolks along with the sugar vigourously for 1 minute, or until it becomes slightly pale and thick. While whisking, add in a quarter of the hot cream. This is called tempering. Once you feel that the egg mixture is warm enough, dump the rest of the cream and whisk to combine.

5. This next step is 
completely optional, but suggested if you seek the creamiest crème brûlée you've ever had (just to show you how hypocritical I am, I didn't do this step). Strain the crème brulee and ladle off the foam (there should be a good amount of foam). Straining the crème brûlée makes sure any egg that might have scrambled with the hot cream is removed. Scraping the foam off makes sure you get a thick creamy consistency without too many air bubbles. Oftentimes, if you don't scrape the foam off, the tops of the crème brulee can look porous and unappetizing (it will still taste delicious though).

6. Place the ramekins (they can be any size or shape you want) in a roasting pan deep enough to fill with water that reaches half-way up the custard. Transfer the crème brûlée
 to a cup for better transfer and fill the ramekins 80% of the way up. Remember, later we still want to top it with curd and have enough space to torch the sugar. Fill the roasting pan with water until it reaches 50% up the sides of the ramekins. Bake on the middle rack, uncovered, for 35-45 minutes depending on how set you want it. Check for doneness by shaking the pan. If it jiggles slightly you might be done, but if doesn't jiggle at all you know you're past done. A slight jiggle is what you're looking for.

7. While the crème brulee bakes, let's get onto the pomelo curd. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the rest of the pomelo zest (the zest of one pomelo) and the sugar. The amount of sugar you use depends on how sweet your pomelos are. Try the pomelos before you decide how much sugar you want to add. In a second bowl, cream the butter with a hand mixer until pale and fluffy. Add the sugar and zest mixture and combine. Next, add the eggs one at a time, making sure to fully incorporate each egg before adding the next. This will ensure that your curd doesn't curdle. Even if it does curdle, the curds will reverse after we heat it. Add the pomelo juice and salt. Transfer the pomelo curd mixture to a saucepan and, WHILE CONTINUOUSLY STIRRING, place over a medium-heat. Don't forget to scrape the bottom of the pan while you stir, so the curd does not scorch. The curd will begin to thicken after about 10 minutes. Take the curd off and immediately strain through a fine-mesch strainer. Place in the refrigerator until the crème brulee is ready.

8. Carefully take the crème brulee out of the oven and let cool on the countertop for at least 10 minutes or overnight in the fridge. If you can't wait, you can put them in the freezer (just don't forget about them). After everything has cooled, top the crème brûlée with pomelo curd. Top that with demerara or turbinado sugar (or granulated white sugar if you insist). Torch or broil the top until the sugar is thoroughly burnt and crunchy. Serve immediately!

So is it un-American to not hand out candy on Halloween? I think not. If only our neighbors poured pumelo curd and crème brulee in Trick-or-Treaters' pails, America would be a much better place. Don't forget to tell me your ideas and comments. I always appreciate them. And as always,


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