So, let’s talk crème brûlée, or “burnt cream” in the English translation. This classic French dessert is so elegant, yet so misunderstood.
Many people think that crème brûlée is only a dessert for restaurants. They couldn’t possibly be successful making this uber-bougie dessert at home. Nothing could be further from the truth!
In fact, crème brûlée is one of the easier desserts to make. Much easier than baking a cake or pie. Yes, it’s true!
This classic French recipe has a short list of simple ingredients and a very simple process. For these reasons, I’ve always loved making it at home.
What is Crème Brûlée made of?
Crème brûlée, also known as trinity cream or creme catalana, is a creamy vanilla custard with a crackly caramelized sugar top.
All you need to make this French crème brûlée recipe are four basic ingredients. Too easy, right? Here’s what you’ll need:
- Vanilla bean paste or real vanilla bean. The paste is simply the beans already scraped out of the pods, plus a natural thickener to make it pasty. I keep a jar of vanilla bean paste in the pantry. It imparts a gorgeous flavor and aroma to lots of desserts and drinks with the added visual of real vanilla beans. Vanilla bean paste can be used interchangeably with real vanilla bean. If you’re really in a pinch, just use an equal amount of pure vanilla extract.
- Heavy cream. This gives crème brûlée the creamy, custardy texture that it is famous for. Don’t try to substitute milk – even whole milk – for the heavy cream.
- Egg Yolks. These also add to that trademark texture. Yep, we are ditching the egg whites! Use them to make an omelette to keep with the French theme you’ve got going on.
- Sugar. A little bit for the custard, and a little for when we torch the tops.
Crème brûlée vs. Custard
Crème brûlée and custard are pretty similar, both in flavor and in texture. They are both made with eggs. Custard is made with either heavy cream or milk, while crème brûlée recipes are always made with heavy cream, so its texture is a bit richer.
Custard also does not have the burnt top that crème brûlée is famous for.
How to Make this French Crème Brûlée Recipe
To make this naturally gluten free dessert at home, you’ll start on the stove. Warm the cream and vanilla bean (or vanilla bean paste) in a saucepan and let it steep for a few minutes to infuse all of that delicious vanilla flavor.
While the cream mixture rests, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together. Combine everything, pour it into individual ramekins and bake. The crème brûlée will have to be refrigerated until it’s completely set. It’s kind of like how you would make pudding.
To get the “burnt cream” that makes this crème brûlée – well – crème brûlée, you need to burn the top of the custard with a torch. I’d argue that the best part of eating crème brûlée is tapping on that sugar crust with a spoon to reveal the delicious custard underneath.
When the Big Guy first bought me a kitchen blow torch, I was like, what a waste of money for something I’ll use maybe once a year. But you can also use your crème brûlée torch like a regular lighter. So, for 12 bucks, grab one from Amazon or Walmart and use it to light candles or anything else when you’re not torching crème brûlée.
It pays for itself, and it’s well worth it.
Why is it important to bake crème brûlée in a water bath?
Crème brûlée, cheesecake, flan and other custard-type desserts need to be baked in a water bath. Also known as a bain marie, a water bath is simply a baking dish that’s partially filled with water. The water usually goes about halfway up the ramekins.
Baking crème brûlée in a water bath keeps the environment in the oven humid and prevents the custard from curdling and cracking.
How to Serve this French Crème Brûlée Recipe
This French crème brûlée recipe is best enjoyed cool or at room temperature. When it comes out of the refrigerator and you use the butane kitchen torch to create the caramel lid, the custard underneath will also warm up a bit.
Garnish this delicious dessert with fresh berries or just eat it plain, on its own. The beauty of this delicious French dessert is its simplicity! And it’s just perfect for celebrations and special occasions.
This recipe will make 6 servings. Cover each ramekin with plastic wrap and store them in the fridge. Torch the tops just before you’re ready to enjoy.
I can’t wait for you to see how easy it is to make this gorgeous, timeless dessert. And when you make this French crème brûlée recipe, I’d love to hear about it! Drop a rating or leave a comment below. Enjoy!
For more gluten free desserts, try these:
For other delicious dessert recipes, try these:
French Crème Brûlée Recipe
- 1 quart heavy whipping cream
- 1 vanilla bean (or 1 Tbsp. vanilla bean paste)
- 1 cup white sugar divided
- 6 large egg yolks
- Stir cream and vanilla paste together in a medium saucepan. (If using a whole vanilla bean, scrape the beans into the saucepan and also put the vanilla pod in). Bring to a boil. Watch closely because it can easily boil over. Cover and remove from heat. Let sit for 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Arrange 6 ramekins in a single layer in a 9×13 baking dish. Set up the water bath: fill the baking dish with hot water until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. The water does not have to be boiling.
- In a bowl, whisk egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar together. Remove vanilla bean pod, if using, from the cream mixture and discard. Slowly pour the cream into the egg mixture, a little at a time, whisking constantly.
- Divide the custard mixture evenly among the ramekins. Bake 40-45 minutes, until custard is set but still jiggly. When cool enough to handle, remove from the baking pan to cool on a wire rack.
- Cover and refrigerate several hours until set. Remove from the refrigerator and sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Use a kitchen torch to burn the sugar topping until browned.
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