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Crème Brûlée: a fantastic, fancy recipe for a classic French dessert

Total time: 1H15 + cooling time
Difficulty: Medium
Serves: 6 people
By Cookist

With its rich, indulgent creamy vanilla-flavored custard and sweet, caramelly, crispy top, crème brûlée is one of the most popular and recognizable French desserts. Crème brûlée is served so the pudding-like custard is cold and the crispy top is warm – the perfect contrast.

Homemade crème brûlée is perfect for any special occasion and you can easily add other flavorings to make wonderful variations. Make it for anniversaries, birthdays, or Valentine's Day for a delicious, rich dessert that's sure to impress.


What is Crème Brûlée?

If you're a fan of creamy, rich desserts, you'll love crème brûlée. Pronounced krem broo-lay, It's a classic French dessert made from a custard with a texture similar to pudding and topped with sugar that is torched before serving. You can jazz it up by adding fruit, caramel, or chocolate to the custard layer.

Crème brûlée is served with cold custard and a warmed top. Tap it with a spoon to crack the hard sugar top, making sure to get some of the custard layer for a delicious contrast that will delight your senses.


Crème Brûlée Ingredients

To make the decadent custard, you'll need egg yolks, heavy cream, and sugar.

Vanilla bean adds wonderful flavor to the custard, and you can always mix in additional ingredients for different flavor variations.

To make the topping all you need to do is sprinkle sugar over the top of the custard then torch it with a kitchen torch until it's caramelized.

How to Make Crème Brûlée

Although it may seem tricky at first, it's actually not all that difficult to make homemade crème brûlée Your first step is to prepare the custard. Pour the cream, sugar, scraped vanilla bean seeds and pod, and salt into a saucepan and heat it over medium.

Once it begins simmering, take the pot off the heat, place a lid over it, and leave it for 15 minutes or so, so the vanilla can flavor the mixture. Once the 15 minutes are nearly up, whisk the eggs and sugar in a bowl.

Tempering the Eggs

This next part is key. To temper the eggs, slowly whisk the hot cream mixture in, working in batches. Whisk the entire time you're adding the cream to prevent the eggs from cooking. Strain the custard into a fresh bowl, then pour it into the ramekins. Add enough hot water to the baking dish, so it reaches just over halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Cook the Custard 

If you're worried about the custard heating too quickly from the bottom, you can place a clean tea towel in the baking dish, then put the ramekins on top before adding in the water. It'll work as an extra buffer.

Bake the custard for 38 to 40 minutes at 325F. The custards should have a slight jiggle when they come out of the oven. Put the baking dish onto a cooling rack. After the ramekins are cool to touch, take them out of the water and let them cool for another 15 to 20 minutes, then wrap with cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

Brûléeing the Top of the Crème Brûlée

Right before you're ready to serve up your crème brûlées, dust the tops of the custard with 1 teaspoon of sugar. Make sure you do it, so the sugar is evenly distributed over the top.

Torch the sugar until it melts and begins to brown. Repeat with the remaining sugar, then serve immediately!


How to Know if Crème Brûlée is Done

You'll know your custards are done when they're a bit jiggly and springy to touch when you take it out of the oven. It should have a glossy appearance. If you overbake the custards, it's not the end of the world. They'll still taste great! However, if the centers of the custards look puffy and risen, you'll need to start again from scratch.

For an easier way to make homemade crème brûlée use a sous vide. This is a foolproof way to avoid overcooking the custard. Pour the custard into six half-pint glass jars instead of ramekins, secure the lid, then place them in a sour vide for one hour. Chill the jars in the fridge overnight, then follow the instructions outlined below when you're ready to torch the crème brûlées.


Can You Make Crème Brûlée Without a Torch?

No kitchen torch? No problem! You can use your broiler to brûlée the tops of your custard. Just note that the custard will warm in the process, so you won't get the same classic cold custard-warm top combination that's expected with this dessert.

Can You Make Crème Brûlée Ahead of Time?

Absolutely! You can make the custard up to four days ahead of time. Just make sure you don't brûlée the tops of the custard until just before you're ready to serve them.

Tips for Making the Best Crème Brûlée

For the best flavor, make sure you use kosher salt, not table salt, to make your crème brûlée.

If you don't have a vanilla bean on hand, you can substitute it for 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Pour the hot cream into the egg mixture very slowly. Pouring it in too quickly will result in the eggs cooking, and forcing you to start over. This is one of the keys to ensuring a smooth custard.

Don't forget to strain the custard before baking it! This will help remove any lumps.

Don't torch your crème brûlées until you're ready to serve them. The sugar will melt, and you won't get that same satisfying hard top


Crème Brûlée Flavor Ideas

There are endless ways to flavor your crème brûlées. Try lemon, orange, coffee, chocolate, Baileys, lavender, mango, passionfruit, pumpkin, raspberry, bourbon, or rum.

There are plenty of other flavors to try, so get creative!

How to Store Crème Brûlée

Once the custard has cooled, it can be covered and stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Don't caramelize them then place them in the fridge as this will cause the sugar to melt. Only torch the crème brûlée right before serving.

Heavy Cream
2 cups
sugar, divided
10 tbsp
vanilla bean
large egg yolks
Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp
Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp
for the topping
4 tbsp


Preheat your oven to 325F. Place the ramekins into a baking dish.

Slice the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds out.

Place cream, 4 tablespoons of sugar into a saucepan.

Add in the vanilla bean seeds and pod, and salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. As soon as the mixture begins to simmer, take the saucepan off the heat, cover with a lid, and leave for 15 minutes.

Place the egg yolks and 6 tablespoons of sugar into a bowl.


Slowly whisk in ¼ cup of the hot cream into the eggs. Repeat three more times.

Continuing to whisk the mixture, pour in the remaining cream.

Strain the custard into a clean bowl.

Pour the custard into the ramekins, so each is about ¾ full.

Pour enough hot water into the baking dish, so it reaches just over halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake for 38 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the baking dish onto a cooling rack.

After the ramekins are cool to touch, take them out of the water.

Let them cool for another 15 to 20 minutes, then wrap with cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

Just before serving, dust the top of the custard with 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Make sure to coat evenly.

Hold your torch about 4 inches away from the ramekin.

Torch the sugar, working in circular motions, until all the sugar has melted and the custard tops take on a caramel color.

Repeat with the second teaspoon of sugar.

Torch the sugar again.

Cool for a minute or so, then serve immediately.


Use 4-ounce ramekins and a 9×13-inch baking dish to make your crème brûlées.

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