creme brulee

Both Merri Ann and I were raised in the country-literally one-service-station-towns.  High schools, shopping, and services were some distance away and kids worked in the fields growing up.  Food was straightforward-lots of roasts and potatoes.

Crme Brulee was never on the menu. The first time that I saw Crme Brulee in a restaurant, it looked impossible to make. But it’s a simple custard with melted sugar on top. We melt the sugar in the oven under the broiler or with a torch. The melted sugar provides a delightful contrast in textures-the silky, smooth custard against the crackle of the sugar candy top. It’s easier than most desserts that we make from scratch.

Then we discovered variations on the Crme Brulee theme: Cinnamon Crme Brulee, Chocolate Crme Brulee, and Crme Brulee with fruit.  (Raspberry Crme Brulee is to die for.)  In this part, we’ll tell you how to make all of these.

  • Custards are typically made with eggs, granulated sugar, cream, and vanilla.  Mix the ingredients gently but thoroughly.  Try to avoid a foam.  For a smoother top, you may wish to spoon off any bubbles.
  • We prefer making our custards with egg yolks instead of whole eggs.  The yolks are richer than the whites and since whites and yolks coagulate at different temperatures, we found that an all yolk custard is a smoother custard.
  • Baking times for custards vary substantially and depend on the pans used, how hot the water is, and how deep it is.  You should bake until the custard is gently set.
  • Custards need to bake evenly so that the proteins set up at the same time.  The individual custards are baked in a pan of water to evenly disperse the heat: the center of the custards bake at the same rate as the edges.
  • Place the custards on a folded towel placed in the bottom of the baking pan.  The towel insulates the ramekins from the heat on the bottom of the pan.
  • Sprinkle sugar evenly over the completed custards.  The sugar is melted by placing the desserts under the broiler and close to the elements or it is melted with a blow torch.  A blow torch provides more control and you can see what you are doing but it is very convenient to do it in the oven and after a couple times, you will have the art mastered.
  • You want to heat the sugar quickly so that it does not heat the custard.  Of course, you can use a blow torch.  Serve the same day or the caramel topping will become soft.  We sometimes place the ramekins in the freezer to chill more quickly.  Do not let the custards freeze.

Classic Crme Brulee

This is the classic crme brulee served in restaurants.  You’ll be surprised how easy it is.

9 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup granulated sugar

  1. To make the custard, mix the egg yolks, salt, and the granulated sugar together until they are combined.
  2. Heat the cream in a saucepan on medium heat until it just starts to bubble, not boil.  Gradually stir in the hot cream into the sugar and egg mixture.  Add the vanilla.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Place a folded towel in the bottom of a baking dish.  The towel will insulate the custard from heat on the bottom of the pan.  Set 4 eight-ounce or 8 four-ounce ramekins on the towel.  Divide the custard mixture between the ramekins.  Set the baking dish with the ramekins on the shelf of the oven.  Carefully pour hot water in the pan-without splashing water into the ramekins-until the water is halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Cover the pan with foil.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the custard is just set.
  5. Let cool in the pan with the water, then remove the ramekins from the baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or until chilled.
  6. Use a paper towel to dab up condensation on the tops of the desserts.  Sprinkle the tops with an even coating of sugar.  Place the rack high in the oven and set the oven to the broiler setting.  The tops of the ramekins should be close to the broiler.
  7. Heat for a few minutes under the broiler, just long enough for the sugar to caramelize.  Serve immediately or return to the refrigerator to chill.


cinnamon creme bruleeCinnamon Crme Brulee

Cinnamon Crme Brulee is Melissa’s favorite.  Not only does the cinnamon add a wonderful flavor to the custard, the cinnamon flecks are very attractive.  Be sure that you use a top quality cinnamon.

9 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup sugar

  1. To make the custard, mix the egg yolks, cinnamon, salt, and the granulated sugar together until they are combined.
  2. Heat the cream in a saucepan on medium heat until it just starts to bubble, not boil.  Gradually stir in the hot cream into the sugar and egg mixture.  Add the vanilla.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Place a folded towel in the bottom of a baking dish.  The towel will insulate the custard from heat on the bottom of the pan.  Set 4 eight-ounce or 8 four-ounce ramekins on the towel.  Divide the custard mixture between the ramekins.  Set the baking dish with the ramekins on the shelf of the oven.  Carefully pour hot water in the pan-without splashing water into the ramekins-until the water is halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Cover the pan with foil.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the custard is just set.
  5. Let cool in the pan with the water, then remove the ramekins from the baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or until chilled.
  6. Use a paper towel to dab up condensation on the tops of the desserts.  Sprinkle the tops with an even coating of sugar.  Place the rack high in the oven and set the oven to the broiler setting.  The tops of the ramekins should be close to the broiler.
  7. Heat for a few minutes under the broiler, just long enough for the sugar to caramelize.

      Serve immediately or return to the refrigerator to chill.


Chocolate Crme Brulee

Chocolate makes a very good crme brulee.  Be sure to use good quality chocolate in this recipe.

9 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup (4 ounces) dark chocolate wafers

chocolate creme brulee1/2 cup sugar

  1. To make the custard, mix the egg yolks, salt, and the granulated sugar together until they are combined.
  2. Heat the cream and the chocolate in a saucepan on medium heat until it just starts to bubble, not boil, and the chocolate is melted.  Gradually stir in the hot cream and chocolate mixture into the sugar and egg mixture.  Add the vanilla.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Place a folded towel in the bottom of a baking dish.  The towel will insulate the custard from heat on the bottom of the pan.  Set 4 eight-ounce or 8 four-ounce ramekins on the towel.  Divide the custard mixture between the ramekins.  Set the baking dish with the ramekins on the shelf of the oven.  Carefully pour hot water in the pan-without splashing water into the ramekins-until the water is halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Cover the pan with foil.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the custard is just set.
  5. Let cool in the pan with the water, then remove the ramekins from the baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or until chilled.
  6. Use a paper towel to dab up condensation on the tops of the desserts.  Sprinkle the tops with an even coating of sugar.  Place the rack high in the oven and set the oven to the broiler setting.  The tops of the ramekins should be close to the broiler.
  7. Heat for a few minutes under the broiler, just long enough for the sugar to caramelize.  Serve immediately or return to the refrigerator to chill.

berry creme brulee


Berry Crme Brulee

Adding berries makes a good crme brulee better.  Use this recipe as a template for raspberries, blueberries, or blackberries.

If breaking out a torch to melt the sugar on top seems like too much, don’t worry.  You can finish these in the oven under the broiler.

9 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh berries or individually frozen berries partially thawed

1/2 cup sugar

  1. To make the custard, mix the egg yolks, salt, and the granulated sugar together until they are combined.
  2. Heat the cream in a saucepan on medium heat until it just starts to bubble, not boil.  Gradually stir the hot cream into the sugar and egg mixture.  Add the vanilla.  Gently stir in the berries.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Place a folded towel in the bottom of a baking dish.  The towel will insulate the custard from heat on the bottom of the pan.  Set 4 eight-ounce or 8 four-ounce ramekins on the towel.  Divide the custard mixture between the ramekins.  Set the baking dish with the ramekins on the shelf of the oven.  Carefully pour hot water in the pan-without splashing water into the ramekins-until the water is halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Cover the pan with foil.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the custard is just set.
  5. Let cool in the pan with the water, then remove the ramekins from the baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or until chilled.
  6. Use a paper towel to dab up condensation on the tops of the desserts.  Sprinkle the tops with an even coating of sugar.  Place the rack high in the oven and set the oven to the broiler setting.  The tops of the ramekins should be close to the broiler.

Heat for a few minutes under the broiler, just long enough for the sugar to caramelize.  Serve immediately or return to the refrigerator to chill.