Crème Brûlée

Caramelized crème brûlée in ramekins

The Spruce / Diana Rattray

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Cooling and Chilling Time: 3 hrs
Total: 3 hrs 55 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Yield: 6 ramekins
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
388 Calories
30g Fat
27g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 388
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 30g 39%
Saturated Fat 19g 94%
Cholesterol 151mg 50%
Sodium 77mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 27g 10%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 27g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 0mg 2%
Calcium 61mg 5%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 91mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

An elegant, classic crème brûlée—French for burnt cream—may sound like a fancy, complicated dessert, but it is surprisingly simple. With only five ingredients, it's just a matter of heating the cream, combining the ingredients, chilling, and baking. And another advantage -- the creamy vanilla custard can be made and refrigerated up to 3 to 4 days in advance. The signature caramelized sugar topping is what makes it so unique, and it takes just a few minutes with a culinary torch.

Six 4-ounce ramekins are the perfect size for this indulgent dessert. You'll have 6 desserts to serve all at once or stretch them over a few days, torching them as you serve them. You can even freeze the base custards for up to 1 month. It's a beautiful dessert, worthy of a special occasion or holiday, but easy and convenient enough to fix and serve any night of the week.

For an extra-special presentation, place the ramekin on a dessert plate and add some fresh berries or chocolate-dipped strawberries, and serve along with a dessert wine, such as Sauternes or moscato.

Ingredients

For the Custard:

  • 2 cups heavy cream

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided

  • 1 pod vanilla bean, or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or extract

  • 4 large egg yolks

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

For the Topping:

  • 4 tablespoons sugar, superfine or plain white granulated sugar

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 F.

  2. Using a small sharp knife, split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise; scrape out the seeds with the blade's dull edge.

  3. Put the cream in a medium saucepan with the vanilla bean and seeds or 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract. Add 1/4 cup of the sugar and stir to blend. Bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat.

  4. Remove from the heat, cover the pan, and set aside to steep for about 10 minutes. If you are using vanilla extract, you can skip this steeping time.

  5. Arrange six 4-ounce ramekins in a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil.

  6. If the cream has cooled, bring it back to a simmer and remove the vanilla bean.

  7. Meanwhile, in a medium, heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and salt until well blended.

  8. While whisking the egg yolk mixture continuously, slowly add about 3/4 cup of the hot cream. Gradually whisk the remaining hot cream into the tempered egg and cream mixture until well blended.

  9. Divide the custard mixture evenly among the six ramekins.

  10. Carefully add about 1 inch of boiling water to the baking pan, or enough to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. The bain-marie surrounds the ramekins, ensuring gentle, even heat. Place the pan in the pre heated oven, taking care to avoid sloshing water onto the custards.

  11. Bake the crème brûlée in the pre heated 325 F oven for about 35 to 40 minutes. If you are using shallow ramekins, check on them after about 30 minutes. The custards should be soft-set with some jiggle when moved. If using an instant-read thermometer, look for a temperature of around 170 F to 175 F.

  12. Cool the custards for about 45 minutes to an hour on a cooling rack.

  13. Place cooled custards on a baking dish or baking sheet and cover them loosely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 to 3 days.

  14. When it's time to serve the crème brulée, remove a ramekin from the refrigerator and sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of sugar over the top (about 2 teaspoons for a wider, shallow ramekin); shake it lightly to spread the sugar as evenly as possible. Repeat with the remaining ramekins or as many as you plan to serve.

  15. Up to 30 minutes before serving, caramelize the sugar with a kitchen torch, constantly moving it in a circular motion as the sugar darkens. The melted, caramelized sugar will form a hard, candy-like top within 2 to 3 minutes.

Tips

  • When adding the hot cream to the egg yolks, add the cream slowly and make sure you are constantly whisking, or you could end up with scrambled eggs. The purpose is to increase the temperature of the eggs without cooking them.
  • If you see some lumps in your custard, strain it through a mesh sieve into a bowl before pouring it into ramekins.
  • In order to avoid a hot water mess when transporting the bain-marie of ramekins to the oven, you can bring the pan with the custard ramekins to the oven first, and with the rack pulled out of the oven slightly, pour the boiling water into the pan as instructed while the pan rests in the oven.
  • When using traditional shallow crème brûlée ramekins, you will need to use a larger baking pan or two pans. Since shallow ramekins have a depth of about 1 inch, add only about 1/2 inch of boiling water to the outer baking pan(s) and check on them after about 30 minutes. When it's time to caramelize the topping, you'll need about 2 teaspoons of sugar because of the larger surface area. 


Crème Brûlée Without A Torch

  • If you don't have a culinary torch, you can brûlée the custards under the broiler. Place 1 to 3 chilled custards on a baking dish and add the sugar. Position the rack in the highest position, place the custards under the broiler, and turn it on broil. After a few minutes, begin checking on the custards and turn them frequently to get an evenly caramelized crust. It will take anywhere from about 5 to 8 minutes. The crème brûlée topping won't look as uniformly browned, and the custard will be pretty warm, but it will still be delicious.


How to Store Crème Brûlée

  • Cover crème brûlée custards that have not been brûléed in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Leftover crème brûlée with a caramelized top may also be refrigerated, but the topping will not hold up for longer than about 30 minutes.
  • You may refrigerate unbaked custard for 3 to 4 days.
  • To freeze cooled, freshly-baked crème brûlée custards, wrap them tightly with plastic wrap and then place them in a covered airtight container; freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost the custards in the refrigerator for several hours or until the custard is soft. Sprinkle the custards with sugar and torch them to caramelize the topping.


Is crème brûlée difficult to make?

Crème brûlée is suprisingly easy to make. Not only is it a fast and simple preparation, but you can also make it up to 3 to 4 days in advance. The creamy custard mixture takes just about 10 minutes to prepare and cook.

What if I burn my topping?

If the top burns, just scrape it off and try again with more sugar.

Is crème brûlée served cold?

The serving temperature depends on preference. Once the custards are brûléed, they can be served right away or after about 10 to 20 minutes at room temperature. Or they can be returned to the fridge for up to 30 minutes and served cold. The topping is at its crunchy best within a few minutes of caramelizing it.