Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Orange Cinnamon Crème Brûlée -- and a #bookgiveaway

Today is Launch Day for GUILTY AS CINNAMON, the second in my Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries. Leave a comment below to be entered for a chance to win a signed copy.

And it’s also launch day for DEAD TO THE LAST DROP, by Cleo Coyle, the 15th Coffeehouse Mystery. Congratulations, Cleo—LOVE the title!

I’m often asked where the recipes in my books come from. Some are family favorites, some are new finds I’m eager to share, and some I create, discover, or adapt for the book. For GUILTY AS CINNAMON, I went looking for a fun dessert that would feature cinnamon, but because the book is set in April, have a light, springy feel. Now, having tested it several times—we suffer, so you don’t have to—I can assure you it’s supremely fabulous in any season.

We got started making crème brûlée years ago, when my mother noticed Mr. Right’s fondness for it on dinners out, and gave us a set of ramekins and a kitchen torch. Men and fire, right? Turns out to be exactly right for GUILTY AS CINNAMON, though I won’t tell you just why!

But I will say while Pepper and Tag don’t agree on much, they are of one mind when it comes to this recipe: the very best crème brûlée ever.

You may blanch when you see that it’s made entirely with cream. You could substitute half-and-half and still swoon with its fabulosity.

Orange Cinnamon Crème Brûlée

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup white sugar (divided use)
Zest of 1 orange, removed in wide strips with a peeler
1 cinnamon stick
6 to 8 strands of fresh thyme
4 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 teaspoons turbinado sugar, for topping
Strips of orange peel or thyme sprigs for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

 In a small saucepan, combine the cream, 1/4 cup sugar, orange zest, and cinnamon stick. Roll the thyme strands back and forth between your palms, over the pan, to release the essential oils, then toss the thyme into the pan. Whisk to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from the heat and strain into a bowl to cool. (This step infuses the cream with the aromatics—the zest, thyme, and cinnamon.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and vanilla. When the infused cream is cooled to the touch, slowly pour it into the egg mixture and whisk to combine. (Cooling the cream avoids curdling the eggs.)

Place four 4-ounce ramekins or custard cups in a large baking dish or roasting pan. Carefully fill the ramekins with the custard mixture. Place the dish in the oven and carefully pour hot water into the pan, till it reaches about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake until the custard is set around the edges and slightly jiggly in the center, about 35 minutes.

Remove the baking dish from the oven. Lift out the ramekins—tongs work nicely—and cool on a rack at room temperature. (Don’t leave them in the hot water, as the heat would continue to cook the mixture.) When cool, move ramekins to refrigerator to chill for at least an hour before the next step.

Just before serving, sprinkle a teaspoon of turbinado sugar evenly over the top of each dish. Caramelize the sugar with a kitchen torch. The sugar will harden, turn golden, and become crunchy. If you don’t have a torch, broil the dishes 2 to 3 minutes until the sugar forms a crisp, golden top.

Garnish with a curvy strip of orange peel or a sprig of thyme.

Or a Scottie dog.

Serves 4.

Leave a comment below to be entered for a chance to win a signed copy of GUILTY AS CINNAMON; contest ends midnight, Wednesday, December 3. Please include your email address!

Pepper Reece knows that fiery flavors are the spice of life. But when a customer dies of a chili overdose, she finds herself in hot pursuit of a murderer…

From the cover ...

Murder heats up Seattle’s Pike Place Market in the next Spice Shop mystery from the national bestselling author of Assault and Pepper.

Springtime in Seattle’s Pike Place Market means tasty foods and wide-eyed tourists, and Pepper’s Seattle Spice Shop is ready for the crowds. With flavorful combinations and a fresh approach, she’s sure to win over the public. Even better, she’s working with several local restaurants as their chief herb and spice supplier. Business is cooking, until one of Pepper’s potential clients, a young chef named Tamara Langston, is found dead, her life extinguished by the dangerously hot ghost chili—a spice Pepper carries in her shop.

Now stuck in the middle of a heated police investigation, Pepper must use all her senses to find out who wanted to keep Tamara’s new café from opening—before someone else gets burned…

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Connect with her on her website or on Facebook.