This Zest is the Best: Grapefruit Bavarian with Caramel Sauce and Candied Peel

I recently needed a dessert to bring to a dinner hosted our friends Jim and Colleen, and because I got a request for something fruity, I decided to go with a grapefruit Bavarian. I've become a big fan of Bavarians since I added several cake rings to my collection of baking equipment; Bavarian cream is not difficult to make but it gives you a lot of bang your for buck.

The recipe is written to be made with tangerines, but since it's not tangerine season, I went with a mix of citrus for the different components; red grapefruit for the Bavarian itself, orange for the caramel sauce, and a mix of grapefruit and orange for the candied peel garnish.

I made the candied peel a day in advance. While I normally use a microplane for zest, I also have one of those zester tools that removes citrus peel in perfect narrow, even strips. Because I used the zester, my strips of peel didn't have any bitter pith attached, but I still went to the trouble of blanching them in three changes of boiling water as the recipe specifies. Then I cooked the zest in a 1:1 mixture of sugar and water until it turned transluscent.

The process of de-tangling and separating the thin strips of zest from each other before laying them out on an oiled rack was tedious, but necessary so that the zest wouldn't dry in massive clumps. Because the sugar syrup began to crystallize as it cooled, I had to work quickly and handle the zest while it was still very hot, ending up with some burnt fingertips. After the zest cooled, I tossed the strips in granulated sugar.

Making the Bavarian was quite easy. I softened some gelatin in a bit of grapefruit juice; whisked together egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and more grapefruit juice, and heated the mixture to a simmer; stirred the gelatin mixture into the egg yolk mixture and cooled it in an ice bath until thickened; and folded in whipped cream that had been beaten with grapefruit zest until it held stiff peaks. I poured the Bavarian mixture into an 8-inch cake ring with a cake circle on the bottom, and chilled it overnight.

The last component I made was the caramel sauce. First, you make a caramel from sugar, water, bay leaves, and orange zest. When the caramel turns dark amber, you add in orange juice, cook until the caramel dissolves, and then add lemon juice and a bit of salt. The first time I tried making the sauce, the mixture of sugar, water, bay leaves, and zest foamed furiously; there was so much foam that I couldn't see the color of the the liquid underneath and I was worried that I might not be able to tell when it turned amber. As it turned out, it didn't matter. The mixture completely dried out and crystallized into a solid chunk, with the bay leaves trapped inside. I had to throw it out and start over.

I had used up my last two bay leaves in my first attempt, so when I made the caramel the second time, I had to skip the bay leaves. But the second time was the charm, and I ended up with a fairly thin golden brown sauce the color of honey. It thickened a bit after chilling.

It was easy to unmold the Bavarian from the cake ring, but not that easy to serve it. The slices were short and not very firm, so as you can see in the photo above, the slices tended to list to the side, especially at the tip. I spooned a good amount of sauce onto each plate before placing the slice of Bavarian on top; the plate in the picture is actually white in the middle with a yellow rim (it's the same plate as the one in this picture), so the bright golden color under the Bavarian is solely from the sauce. I threw a bit of candied zest on top to complete the dessert.

The Bavarian was lovely and light, with a beautiful grapefruit flavor. The sauce was unusual, with a bit of tartness from the citrus, and it was a nice accompaniment. But my favorite part by far was the candied zest. I could easily eat it plain by the handful; it tasted like the most delicious gumdrop ever. The zest flavor was sweet, intense, and pure, and the chewy texture was the perfect contrast to the Bavarian.

I was delighted with the way this dessert turned out -- but if I make this Bavarian again, I would definitely add some more gelatin to get a firmer texture. I also might either make a bigger batch or pour it into a smaller cake ring, so that the slices would be a little taller. And of course, I would make a lot more candied zest!

Recipes: "Tangerine Bavarian," "Tangerine Caramel Sauce," and "Candied Tangerine Peel," from

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Jim said…