Our Fremont tangerine tree was a skinny, runty-looking tree when we brought it home more than fifteen years ago. We nurtured it, planted it in the best location of the sun-filled garden, and did all we could to keep our Rhodesian Ridgeback from trampling it for the first two years. It wasn’t, however, as healthy as we’d hoped. Then all of a sudden, after the second year, it seemed to hit a sweet spot in the soil and had a growth spurt to incredible heights. Our little “Charlie Brown” citrus tree exploded with fruit in huge, grape-like clusters. We couldn’t believe how strong it became overnight, and after all these years it continues to give us juicy fruit that feeds our community of friends and neighbors. Motto of this story: Never, ever give up on your little trees because you never know how beautiful they can grow up to be. We’re such proud parents. This recipe is to celebrate our once-wee-little tangerine tree.

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Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups (600ml) heavy cream
  • Finely grated zest of 6 medium tangerines
  • 3 eggs
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup (165g) packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup (120ml) fresh tangerine juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Place ten 4-ounce ceramic ramekins in a roasting pan or other suitable ovenproof dish taller than the ramekins. Add hot water to the pan until it reaches about three-quarters of the way up the sides of the ramekins. Remove the ramekins from the water and place the roasting pan in the oven (make sure there is no rack directly above it, so you’ll have room to return the filled ramekins to the pan). Set the ramekins aside.
  2. In a saucepan, combine the cream and tangerine zest. Over medium heat, warm the cream to the scalding point, stirring occasionally.
  3. In a medium bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs and egg yolks. Whisk in ½ cup (110g) of the brown sugar and the tangerine juice.
  4. Pour the egg mixture into the cream, stirring constantly. Add the salt and vanilla extract. Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a container that is easy to pour out of.
  5. Divide the custard evenly among the ramekins; each one should be about three-quarters full. Open the oven door and carefully place the filled ramekins in the hot water bath.
  6. Bake the custards for 25 to 30 minutes, or until they are just set (make sure not to overcook them—better under than over). Remove the ramekins from the water bath and place them on a kitchen towel (canning jar lifters work great for this step). Allow the custards to cool for about 20 minutes, then refrigerate them until they are thoroughly chilled. (The custards will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator; keep them well covered to prevent other smells from permeating them.)
  7. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F (150C°). Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  8. Spread the remaining ¼ cup (55g) brown sugar into an even, thin layer on the sheet pan. Bake until the sugar starts to dry out (about 5 minutes). Remove from the oven, allow to cool, then roll the sugar with a rolling pin to break it up into granules again. Set aside in an airtight container until you are ready to serve the crème brûlées.
  9. Sprinkle the brown sugar in a thin, even layer on the tops of the custards. Pass a kitchen torch over the custards with quick swirling motions until the sugar melts and burns slightly.

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