Crème Brûlée is a delicious baked custard that is topped off with caramelized sugar and served with fresh whipped cream and berries for the most amazing dessert of all time. For some more great entertaining style desserts see my Berry Crisp Recipe with No-Churn Ice Cream and my Best Blondies Recipe.
Crème Brûlée is definitely a dessert you would see on any fine dining restaurant’s menu. Often times they are spiked with flavored liqueurs, like my Egg Nog Crème Brulee with Kahlua. or chocolate to change up the flavor profile. Don’t let the word crème brûlée scare you because they are one of the simpler traditional French dessert recipes to make using only 4 ingredients.
What Is Crème Brûlée
Crème brûlée translates from French to English as, “burnt cream.” It’s funny because the cream isn’t really burnt, however, the sugar that goes on top off the dessert is caramelized for a slightly charred caramel taste. The combination of crispy sugar and soft custard cream makes for an incredible flavor and texture contrast.
It is said that it was founded by Chef Francois Massialot, who served as chef to many of the Dukes in France, during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. It didn’t really become popularized until the 1980s where it began popping up on menus across the world. Crème brûlée is also known as Trinity Cream or English Cream.
How to Make Crème Brûlée
1. The most traditional crème brûlée recipe uses vanilla bean, so that will be used in this recipe.
1. Cut the fresh vanilla beans in half longways and scrape out all of the vanilla bean seeds from the inside. Transfer to a medium-size saucepot.
2. Add heavy whipping cream to the pot with the vanilla beans and cook over low heat to scald.
3. Separate egg yolks from egg whites. Set aside egg whites for some other use as it will not be used in this recipe.
4. Whisk the egg yolks with sugar in a bowl and set aside.
5. Once the cream has scalded pour a small amount of it into the bowl with the sugar and eggs to temper, and gently whisk it together. Then, add the rest of the cream and gently whisk
6. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer or chinois into a large pourable container.
7. Place the ramekins onto a sheet tray or a cake tray pan. Pour the crème brûlée mixture evenly between the ramekins filling them to almost the top.
8. Transfer the tray to the oven and place it on the rack. Fill the tray with warm water until it reaches the ½ waypoint on the ramekins.
9. Bake at 325° for 35 to 40 minutes or until they are firm in the center when you tap it.
10. Remove from the water bath and cool at room temperature for 30 minutes before completely cooling in the refrigerator for 60-90 minutes.
11. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar to the top of each crème brûlée and move the sugar around by rocking the ramekin in your hand.
12. Using a torch, caramelize the sugar on top until it is crispy and lightly browned.
Serve with whipped cream, fresh berries, and mint.
Crème Brûlée Frequently Asked Questions
Can you overcook crème brûlée? The answer is yes, and you will immediately notice because your crème brûlée will resemble scrambled eggs. It is best to cook them in a water bath at lower temperatures between 300° and 325°.
Do you need ramekins for it? Using ramekins is the traditional way to make and serve it, however, you can use a mug, a tart dish, or anything that is glass, metal, or enameled materials.
What kind of sugar do you use for crème brûlée? You can use plain cane sugar in crème brûlée and on top too caramelize with. You can also use caster sugar, which is a finer version of cane sugar.
How jiggly should it be? When it’s done it firms up. If you knock it with your finger it should do a very gentle ripple from the outside to the center. Think of Jurassic Park here :-).
How far in advance can you make crème brûlée? You can make it up to 3 days before you plan on serving it.
Why do you cook it in a water bath? You do this to add moisture to the oven because things like custard and cheesecake have delicate tops and if the oven is dry it will cause them to crack and fall.
Crème Brûlée Torch
A torch is definitely needed to caramelize the sugar on top of the crème brûlée. Here are a few affordable options for you that I personally recommend having used all of them (those are aff links which allows me to make a few bones off of the sale):
If you are wanting to make a liqueur crème brûlée, like my Rumchata creme brulee version, simply sub out ¼ cup of the heavy cream for ¼ cup of the desire liqueur. That ¼ cup amount of liqueur will be plenty to flavor it up.
Recipe Chef Notes + Tips
Storing and Freezing: When storing these, remember to cover in plastic while in the refrigerator so that it does not pick up and fridge smells from other foods. It can be stored for up to 4 days and it does not freeze well as it will turn into the soup once thawed.
You can substitute vanilla extract for the vanilla beans.
If you tilt the pot backward or forwards and see mini bubbles that form on the bottom of the pan while cooking, the cream has been scalded.
Since you only need egg yolks, egg whites work great for merengue or an all egg white omelet for breakfast.
You only want to pour a small amount of the hot cream in at the beginning to bring the eggs up to temperature without scrambling them.
If you do not have a pourable container you can also simply pour it into a bowl and use a ladle to transfer the custard to the ramekins.
It is best to hold the ramekin in one hand and the torch in the other and move the ramekin around to move the sugar around as it caramelizes.
Be sure to cover the dessert in the refrigerator or else it will pick up other smells from food in the fridge.
The most important part of any torch is finding one that is easy to refill, stands up straight when setting it down and can adjust the flame output.
More Amazing Dessert Recipes
Crème Brulee Recipe
- creme brulee dishes or ramekins
- 2 vanilla beans
- 1 quart heavy whipping cream
- 12 egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar + 6 teaspoons
- Preheat the oven to 325°.
- Cut the beans in half longways and scrape out all of the seeds using a small knife. See note. Transfer the seeds to a medium size sauce pot and pour in the heavy cream.
- Cook the pot over low heat until scalded. See note.
- In a large bowl whisk together the eggs and sugar until combined.
- Next, add in a small amount of the scalded cream to the egg-sugar mixture and whisk gently until combined to temper the eggs. Pour in the remaining hot cream and gently mix until combined.
- Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a pouring bowl or a regular bowl.
- Place 6 crème brulee ramekins into a cookie sheet tray and evenly pour the crème brulee batter into the ramekins. See note.
- Put the tray onto the oven rack and pour in enough warm water to fill up the tray to the ½ way mark on the crème brulee ramekins. Cook for 40 to 45 minutes or until firm in the center.
- Remove from the water and cool at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Transfer to the fridge and cool completely for 60-90 minutes.
- 1Remove from the fridge and add 1 tablespoon of sugar to each crème brulee ramekin. Using a torch in 1 hand and the ramekin in the other caramelize the sugar moving the sugar around to help spread. See note.
- 1Serve with whipped cream, fresh berries and mint.