How to Make Crème Brûlée in 10 Steps

Creme brulee
Leah Maroney
  • 01 of 17

    How to Make Crème Brûlée

    creme brulee
    Leah Maroney

    To begin with, Pre-heat your oven to 300 F.

    We'll be using the yolks of 8 extra large eggs. To separate an egg, crack the egg and pull the shell apart into two equal-sized halves. Then, with a clean bowl underneath, simply shift the yolk back and forth from one half of the shell to the other, letting the whites fall into the bowl below. Collect the yolks in a large mixing bowl.

    Save the egg whites to make a high-protein, low-fat omelet, a meringue or, for the stout of heart, a soufflé.

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  • 02 of 17

    Beat the Yolks Until Smooth

    creme brulee
    Leah Maroney

    Using a whisk, beat the yolks for a minute or two, or until they're completely smooth.

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  • 03 of 17

    Add the Sugar

    creme brulee
    Leah Maroney

    Now add 1/3 cup sugar and continue to whisk for about 2 more minutes, or until the sugar is fully incorporated and the yolks are a pale shade of yellow.

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  • 04 of 17

    Add the Cream

    creme brulee
    Leah Maroney

    For this recipe, we need 2 cups of cream. We like to use 1 cup of heavy cream and 1 cup of half and half. For a richer crème brûlée, use 2 cups heavy cream, or to make it a bit lighter, use 2 cups of half and half.

    Add the cream and whisk until fully blended.

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  • 05 of 17

    Add Pure Vanilla Extract

    creme brulee
    Leah Maroney

    Add 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract and whisk until blended.

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  • 06 of 17

    Strain the Custard Mixture

    creme brulee
    Leah Maroney

    Straining the custard filters out any eggy bits to ensure a nice, smooth consistency. Carefully pour the custard through a wire strainer (known as a sieve).

    Here's a tip: rinse any egg particles out of the sieve with cold water before washing it. Hot water will cook the egg particles into the wire mesh, making it really difficult to clean.

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  • 07 of 17

    Set up a Water Bath

    creme brulee
    Leah Maroney

    Fill a large roasting pan with an inch or two of warm water, and place your empty ramekins into the pan. This water bath is called a bain-marie. The water should come about halfway up the ramekins. Baking the custards in a bain-marie keeps the air in the oven moist, and prevents the crème brûlées from cracking.

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  • 08 of 17

    Pour the Custard Into the Ramekins and Bake

    creme brulee
    Leah Maroney

    Carefully pour the custard into the ramekins. Fill all the ramekins about halfway, then top up each one a little at a time. That way, you won't run out of custard before they're all full.

    Now transfer the roasting pan ​to the oven. You're going to have to hold it steady so that you don't slosh water into the ramekins.

    Bake for 35 minutes or until the edges are set but the centers just barely jiggle when you nudge the pan.

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  • 09 of 17

    Cool In Water Bath

    creme brulee
    Leah Maroney

    Remove the pan from the oven and allow the custards to cool in the water bath for 30 minutes or so. Then remove the ramekins, place them on a flat sheet pan or tray, cover with plastic and chill for at least 4 hours, up to overnight.

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  • 10 of 17

    Prepare to Caramelize

    creme brulee
    Leah Maroney

    Now that you've got the crème part down, it's time for the brûlée — which means "burnt" in French. You'll be using a butane culinary torch for that. Familiarize yourself with how your particular model works and be sure to follow the safety instructions — you're playing with real fire here!

    Your completed custards have chilled for at least four hours, but overnight is best. About 20 minutes before you want to caramelize them, take them out of the refrigerator and let them sit at room temperature.

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  • 11 of 17

    Sprinkle Creme Brulees With Granulated Sugar

    creme brulee
    Leah Maroney

    If any moisture condensation has formed on the Creme Brulee tops, gently dab it away with a paper towel, being careful not to dent the custard.

    Then sprinkle the tops of the Creme Brulees with granulated white sugar. Be generous — you'll pour off the excess in a moment. But make sure you cover the whole surface and swirl the ramekins to distribute the sugar evenly.

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  • 12 of 17

    Shake Off Excess Sugar

    creme brulee
    Leah Maroney

    Here's a tip: when you pour off the excess, pour it onto the next Creme Brulee, adding new sugar with a spoon as needed until all the Creme Brulees are covered, but there are no loose granules remaining.

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  • 13 of 17

    Flame On!

    creme brulee
    Leah Maroney

    Now the fun starts — it's time to fire up your torch! They all work differently, so follow the instructions for lighting yours, and adjust the length of the flame to medium.

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  • 14 of 17

    Begin Lightly Torching the Sugar

    creme brulee
    Leah Maroney

    Hold the torch a good distance away from the Creme Brulee and slowly move it closer, while sort of rotating the flame, keeping it constantly in motion. Once it gets close enough, you'll see the sugar start to liquefy and form little droplets on the surface.

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  • 15 of 17

    Keep the Flame Moving!

    creme brulee
    Leah Maroney

    As you continue cooking the sugar, you'll see little wisps of smoke puff up as the sugar begins to turn caramel-colored. You'll also smell the delicious aroma of cooked sugar, kind of like cotton candy.

    Keep the flame moving so that it isn't focused on any one spot for too long. Pull the torch away if the sugar smokes excessively. Be sure to get the sugar along the edges of the ramekin as well as in the middle.

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  • 16 of 17

    The Sugar Will Darken and Form a Glaze

    creme brulee
    Leah Maroney

    You'll be seeing a nice, caramel-colored glaze form on top of the Creme Brulee. It's a bit tricky knowing exactly when to stop, but it's better to stop too soon than too late. If necessary, you can always fill in any underdone spots in a minute, when the sugar cools down a bit. 

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  • 17 of 17

    The Finished Creme Brulee

    creme brulee
    Leah Maroney

    When you're finished you'll have a hard, glass-like glaze of caramelized sugar on top. Pop the Creme Brulees back into the refrigerator for 10 minutes or so before serving them, just to re-chill the Creme Brulees after they've been heated by the torch. 

    You can serve the Creme Brulees just as they are, and they'll be absolutely delicious. But a few fresh berries and a dusting of powdered sugar is a nice, elegant touch.