Crème Brulee 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 Brulee 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 brulee scare you because they are one of the simpler traditional French dessert recipes to make using only 4 ingredients.
CHEF NOTES: The 4 ingredients in this include heavy whipping cream, sugar, vanilla bean and eggs.
WHAT IS IT
Crème brulee 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 make 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 century. It didn’t really become popularized until the 1980’s where it began popping up on menu’s across the world.
CHEF NOTES: Crème brulee is also known as Trinity Cream or English Cream.
HOW TO MAKE CRÈME BRULEE
The most traditional crème brulee recipe uses vanilla bean, so that will be used in this recipe.
STEP 1: Cut the fresh vanilla beans in half long ways and scrape out all of the vanilla bean seeds from the inside. Transfer to a medium size sauce pot.
- CHEF NOTE: You can substitute for vanilla extract.
STEP 2: Add heavy whipping cream to the pot with the vanilla beans and cook over low heat to scald.
- CHEF NOTE: If you tilt the pot backwards or forwards and see mini bubbles that form on the bottom of the pan while cooking, the cream has been scalded.
STEP 3: Separate egg yolks from egg whites. Set aside egg whites for some other use as it will not be used in this recipe.
- CHEF TIPS: Egg whites work great for merengue or an all egg white omelet for breakfast.
STEP 4: Whisk the egg yolks with sugar in a bowl and set aside.
STEP 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
- CHEF NOTE: You only want to pour a small amount in the beginning to bring the eggs up to temperature without scrambling them.
STEP 6: Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer or chinois into a large pourable container.
- CHEF TIPS: You can also simply pour it into a bowl and use a ladle to transfer the custard to the ramekins.
Step 7: Place the ramekins onto a sheet tray or a cake tray pan. Pour the crème brulee mixture evenly between the ramekins filling them to almost the top.
STEP 8: Transfer the tray to the oven and place it on the rack. Fill the tray with warm water until it reaches the ½ way point on the ramekins.
STEP 9: Bake at 325° for 35 to 40 minutes or until they are firm in the center when you tap it.
STEP 10: Remove from water bath and cool at room temperature for 30 minutes before completely cooling in the refrigerator for 60-90 minutes.
STEP 11: Add 1 tablespoon of sugar to the top of each crème brulee and move the sugar around by rocking the ramekin in your hand.
STEP 12: Using a torch caramelize the sugar on top until it is crispy and lightly browned.
- CHEF TIP: It is best to hold the ramekin in one hand and the torch in the other and move the ramekin around move the sugar around as it caramelizes.
STEP 13: Serve with whipped cream, fresh berries and mint.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Can you over cook crème brulee? The answer is yes, and you will immediately notice because your crème brulee will resemble scrambled eggs. It is best to cook them in a water bath at lower temperatures in 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 brulee? You can use plain can sugar in crème brulee and on top to 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 brulee? You can make it up to 3 days before you plan on serving it.
- CHEF TIP: Be sure to cover it in the refrigerator or else it will pick up other smells from food in the fridge.
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 BRULEE TORCH
A torch is definitely needed to caramelize the sugar on top of the crème brulee. 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):
CHEF TIP: 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.
If you are wanting to make a liqueur crème brulee, like my Rumchata creme brulee version, simply sub out ¼ cup of the heavy cream for ¼ cup of the desire liquer. That ¼ cup amount of liquer will be plenty to flavor it up.
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 soup once thawed.
*If you’re loving on this crème brulee recipe then you absolutely have to check out my Homemade Buttermilk Chess Pie and be sure to drop me a comment below and a rating if you’ve had the chance to make this delicious recipe*
Remember to check out the step by step video below!
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 long ways 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.
• If you tilt the pot backwards or forwards and see mini bubbles that form on the bottom of the pan while cooking, the cream has been scalded.
• 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 move the sugar around as it caramelizes.
• Be sure to cover the crème brulee in the refrigerator or else it will pick up other smells from food in the fridge.