Brûleéd Spiced Grapefruits with Homemade Crème Fraîche

Grapefruits aren’t on my radar most of the year. It’s like I don’t even see them. But then January comes around, bringing with it pyramids of the golden orbs at the grocery store, and I suddenly remember: “Oh yeah! Grapefruit!”

It’s like I subconsciously ignore them until they’re at the very peak of their season, and then I spend the next few weeks on an out-and-out binge.

Brûlée grapefruit from

Can you blame me? A juicy, perfectly ripe, ruby-red grapefruit fresh from the sunny climes of Texas or Florida can brighten our soggy Northwest winters like nothing else.

Or at the very least they make breakfast something to look forward to — especially when given the “fancy” treatment. You’ve probably heard of broiled grapefruit, where you sprinkle the cut fruit with sugar and broil it until the sugar melts and caramelizes? This takes that a step or two further.

First I sprinkle the fruit with a mix of cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cardamom. Then I cover the spices in sugar (raw sugar works best) and torch it until bubbly and browned. When it cools, it forms a crispy crust, like creme brûleé. To make it even more deluxe, I add a dollop of crème fraîche.

Creme fraiche from

Crème fraîche is basically French-style sour cream — luxuriously richer and not as tangy. It’s like whipping cream and sour cream had a baby, which is apt because that’s pretty much how it’s made. Seriously.

To make your own crème fraîche all you have to do is mix 1 cup of cream with 2 tablespoons cultured dairy product — like buttermilk or unsweetened yogurt (or cultured sour cream, such as Nancy’s). My preference is buttermilk. Set aside at warm room temperature overnight. That’s it. I like to set mine on my vintage stove, because the pilot light keeps it warm. The next day the cultures will have colonized the cream and thickened it to a whipped cream consistency. Pop it in the fridge and it’ll firm up like sour cream.

Sometimes I broil the grapefruit, because it warms the whole fruit up a bit. Sometimes I get out the kitchen torch, because it’s faster and fun to use, and produces the crispiest sugar crust. Either way, the result is an elegant, blessedly simple breakfast that sets the day off on the right foot.


Brûlée grapefruit from


Brûleéd Grapefruits with Crème Fraîche

Makes 4 servings

This recipe is really more of a technique than anything else. And as with any technique, there are do’s and don’ts. Don’t mix the spices with the sugar, because they burn when torched. Instead, sprinkle them directly on the fruit, then cover with a generous layer of sugar, which will protect them. Also, do pat the fruit dry so the fruit’s juices won’t saturate the sugar and keep it from caramelizing properly. By the same token, don’t wait too long after adding the sugar before you torch or broil it. Otherwise, the sugar will start pulling juices from the fruit. Feel free to use whatever spices you like, or none at all. Grapefruits are quite versatile. But don’t substitute the raw sugar. Brown sugar tends to catch fire and burn, and white sugar just isn’t as tasty.


2 ruby red grapefruits

1/4 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp cardamom

1/4 tsp ginger

1/4 cup raw or turbinado sugar

Crème fraîche (see note)


Cut the grapefruits in half horizontally. If you plan to broil them instead of torch them, slice about 1/4 inch off the bottom, so they’ll sit flat, set them on a baking sheet, and preheat the broiler. If planning to torch, set them in serving bowls. Use a sharp knife to cut around the membranes of each segment, so they’ll be easier to scoop out.

Mix the spices together in a small bowl. Pat the grapefruits dry and sprinkle each with 1/4 teaspoon of the spice mix. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar on top, being sure to cover the spices (so they don’t burn).

Broil the grapefruits a few inches below the broiler for about 3 minutes, or until sugar is browned and bubbly (keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn).  Or use a culinary torch to brûleé the sugar. Allow the melted sugar to cool for a minute to crisp up, then top each grapefruit with a generous dollop of crème fraîche.

To make homemade crème fraîche: In a jar, mix 1 cup heavy cream with 2 tablespoons cultured buttermilk, or other unsweetened and unflavored cultured dairy product, like yogurt or sour cream (check the label to be sure it’s thickened with live cultures, not gums and additives. Nancy’s Sour Cream is a good choice). Cover and set at warm room temperature for 8 to 24 hours, until thickened. Store in the refrigerator.


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