Crème brûlée features a cool creamy custard topped with a caramelized sugar topping. It’s surprisingly easy to make at home with just five basic ingredients.
What is crème brûlée? It is essentially a custard with a caramelized topping.
It originated in the middle ages in Europe. Literally meaning “burnt cream” in French, this tasty treat eventually found its way from Europe to the United States.
Thomas Jefferson reportedly served it in the White House. However, its true moment in the sun was the 1980s. Crème brûlée accented a decade of decadence in the US.
So how do you make crème brûlée? Well, it’s a similar process to most custards.
It is a combo of milk, heavy cream, eggs yolks, sugar and vanilla. Then, slow even heat is applied to create this dessert.
Why this recipe works
- The ramekins in this crème brûlée recipe bake in a water bath, which ensures slow, even heat.
- This recipe calls for removing the foam from the custard, which results in the sugar on top being caramelized properly.
You’ll love the simplicity of the crème brûlée recipe! The limited ingredients and easy preparation steps make it suitable for any baker.
What you need
This is a short overview of the ingredients I used and why I chose them. The full recipe can be found at the bottom of the post!
- Milk & Cream: These ingredients add richness to the flavor profile. If you prefer, you can omit the milk and use 2 cups of heavy cream.
- Vanilla bean paste: Good-quality vanilla beans are expensive. You can use vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract without any issues.
- Sugar: This adds a kick of sweetness and provides the material for creating a caramelized top.
- Egg yolks: These help thicken the custard and provide color to the finished product.
This is a list of tools I used to make the recipe.
- Ramekins: These petite ramekins hold individual servings of the crème brûlée.
- Torch: You’ll need a crème brûlée torch to caramelize the sugar on the tops of the custards.
How to make crème brûlée
1. Make the custard
Mix the five main ingredients to create the perfect crème brûlée.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Then, arrange six ramekins in a baking dish. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, combine milk, heavy cream and vanilla bean paste.
- Then, heat over medium-high heat. Continue until bubbles appear along the sides of the pan.
- In a medium bowl, quickly whisk the egg yolks and sugar together.
- Then, slowly pour the hot cream into the egg mix. Whisk continuously to combine.
- Strain the mix through a sieve into a pitcher or large liquid measuring cup.
- Pour the custard into the ramekins.
- Place the baking pan with filled ramekins inside the oven.
- Then, carefully fill the pan with enough hot water to fill ⅔ of the way up the sides of the ramekins.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or just until set. Check the custard early. Bake times will vary.
- Remove the baking pan from the oven. Allow ramekins to cool in the water bath.
- Once they cool down to touch, remove them from the water bath, cover in plastic wrap, and store in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
ⓘ It’s important to slowly pour the hot cream into the eggs. To make this easier, you can use a ladle and add 1 spoonful at a time while whisking. If you go too fast the eggs may scramble.
2. Torch the top to caramelize
crème brûlée is well-known for its caramelized sugar top.
- Immediately prior to serving, sprinkle the tops of the custard with an even layer of granulated sugar.
- Then, melt the sugar with a propane crème brûlée torch or broiler.
- Finally, these creamy custards are ready to serve!
Jen’s Best tips
- How will I know it’s done? The custard is generally done when it jiggles uniformly across the dessert when shaken gently.
- Why do I need the water bath? This helps the custard bake slowly and evenly. Be careful not to get any water in the custard.
- Why do I need to remove foam? If the foam is baked on top of the custard, you may have a hard time getting the tops to caramelize later.
- Can I use real vanilla beans? Sure! Add it to the cream, then scrape out the seeds and add them to the custard.
Storing & Freezing
To store: The crème brûlée must be refrigerated at least 4 hours prior to serving. However, they can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days before serving.
To freeze: I would not recommend freezing this dessert.
More delightful desserts
Try out some of my other favorite creamy, delicious treats!