Special equipment: a handheld kitchen torch
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Bring a medium pot of water to a simmer.
Meanwhile, finely grate the zest from the top and bottom of each grapefruit to flatten them out. Reserve the zest (about 1 1/2 teaspoons).
Cut the grapefruits in half crosswise. Use sharp paring knife or chef's knife to cut around the edge of the grapefruit flesh where it meets the pith, holding it at an angle so that it matches the curve of the fruit. Use a spoon to remove as much of the fruit as possible. Reserve 2 tablespoons of juice and reserve the remaining for another use. Use your hands to remove any remaining flesh from the grapefruit shells (the fruit should pull off from the sides easily).
Put the cream, 1/2 cup sugar and the reserved zest in a medium saucepan and bring to a bare simmer over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl. When the cream is hot, gradually whisk it into the yolks. Whisk in the vanilla and reserved grapefruit juice then strain through a fine meshed sieve into a liquid measuring cup.
Line a 9-by-13 glass baking dish with a paper towel then set the grapefruit shells on top. Pour the custard into the shells so that it just reaches the tops (you may have a little extra custard depending on the size of your grapefruits). Put the baking dish in the oven then carefully add enough of the simmering water so that it reaches about halfway up the sides of the grapefruits. Bake until the custard is just set, 50 to 60 minutes.
Remove the baking dish from the oven and carefully remove the grapefruits with a spatula. Put on a large plate and refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hours and 30 minutes.
Shortly before serving, sprinkle the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar evenly over the tops of the custard. Use the torch to brulee the sugar until deep golden brown. The caramel will harden as it cools.
Propane gas torches are highly flammable and should be kept away from heat, open flame and prolonged exposure to sunlight. They should be used only in well-ventilated areas. Follow torch manufacturer's instructions for use.
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