Classic Crème Brûlée
Updated: Mar 25, 2021
Crème brûlée has always been one of my favorites because they are just heavenly when done well. I ordered a kitchen torch a year ago and told my husband I was determined to make my own. Well, the torch sat untouched for five months until I finally got up the nerve to give it a shot. And I was shocked at how easy it was! I’ve made up for lost time and have since made five batches of crème brûlée, tweaking the recipe each time.
This recipe is quite simple although I have three notes to keep in mind. The first is the cooking time. The temperature and time in this recipe work for me, but the exact cooking time will depend on your oven and on the size and depth of your ramekins. The deeper the dish, the longer they will need to cook. Check and leave them in a little longer if the custard is not yet set.
The second is about the advantage of a kitchen torch. I typically don’t like to post recipes that require special tools. Below, I have included how to caramelize the tops without a torch, but I strongly preferred the caramelization from the kitchen torch over how they turned out from putting them under the broiler. You can get a kitchen torch for $20 (at Bed Bath and Beyond for example) that can be used for many other things as well! Adding a crispy top to gratin potatoes or mac & cheese, searing meat, blackening peppers or tomatoes, making s’mores … it doesn’t need to be a tool that simply takes up space. To get the crunchy, golden layer that makes a crème brûlée so much fun to crack into, I highly recommend using a torch.
The last is that I suggest making the custards the day before you plan to serve them. The custard sets better with more time in the refrigerator.
Classic Crème Brûlée
Active time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 30-40 minutes
Need: 6-ounce ramekins or shallow dishes (1-inch high, 4-inch in diameter), kitchen torch (preferably)
1 ½ cups (350 ml) 2% or whole milk (lait demi-écrémé in France)
1 ½ cups (350 ml) heavy cream (at least 30% fat, crème liquid in France)
1 or 2 vanilla beans (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
Dash of salt
¾ cup (120 g) granulated sugar + more for the topping
7 egg yolks
Preheat the oven to 325° F (160°C).
Pour the milk and heavy cream into a saucepan. Using a sharp knife, cut the vanilla bean in
half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the saucepan. Put the vanilla bean into the liquid as well and add a dash of salt. Cook the milk mixture over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until fragrant and just starting to bubble. Take off heat.
In a large heatproof bowl, whisk the sugar with the egg yolks until the mixture is a frothy light-yellow color.
Discard the vanilla bean halves from the milk mixture. Pour about ¼ of the mixture into the bowl with the sugar and egg yolks and whisk to combine. Add the rest of the liquid, whisking constantly (so the eggs don’t curdle) until smooth.
Place the ramekins in a large, high-rimmed baking dish or roasting pan. Pour the cream mixture almost to the top of the ramekins. Pour hot water in the baking dish so that it
reaches about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Carefully place in the oven.
Check them after 30 minutes, but mine normally take 40. They are ready to be taken out of the oven when the custards are just barely set and wobble only slightly when gently shaken. Let cool completely. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 4 days. Best to do the day before serving if possible.
Just before serving, take the custards out of the refrigerator. Cover each custard with a thin layer of sugar (cassonade in France) – about 1-2 teaspoons for each. Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the top of each custard until browned and bubbly. Let sit for 1 minute to let the tops harden then serve. If you put them back in the refrigerator after caramelizing the tops, they will lose their crunch and just be a tasty custard.
If you do not have a kitchen torch, place the sugar-topped ramekins in the oven about 2-3 inches from the top and turn on the broiler. Broil for about 5 minutes or until the sugar is melted and browned. Remove from the oven, let sit for 1 minute and serve.
And bon appétit!