Vanilla Crème Brûlée

Crème Brûlée

When I think of dessert, one of the first things that comes to mind is Crème Brûlée.  I can’t resist the contrast between the cool, creamy custard and the crisp, carmelized sugar.  Luckily this dessert is actually quite simple to make once you master a couple of basic cooking techniques (as well as wielding a blow torch).  One of the best things about this dessert is that you can prepare the custard ahead of time, and you just have to pull out the custard and caramelize the sugar when it’s time for dessert.

I’ve made many variations of Crème Brûlée and I still have to say that my favorite is the classic vanilla.  I’m quite adamant about the use of vanilla beans for this recipe.  I use vanilla beans anytime vanilla is one of the major flavors in the dish.  Don’t get me wrong, vanilla extract has its place (like in brownies).  I have to say one of the best recipes that I’ve tried is Alton Brown’s Creme Brulee from the Food Network show Good Eats.  I recommend using a torch from a hardware store.  Definitely buy one that has a self-starter because it’s more likely to stay on when you tilt the torch.

I pretty much follow his recipe exactly, but I’ll try and be more thorough with my explanation:

A Nice Warm Bath

A Nice Warm Bath

Crème Brûlée


1 Quart Heavy Cream

1 Vanilla Bean, Split

1/2 Cup Sugar, plus  1/2 cup extra for Caramelizing

6 Large Egg Yolks


1. Preheat oven to 325 F

2. Place the cream, split vanilla bean, and it’s scraped seeds into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk seeds to combine and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and cover.  Allow the pan to sit for 15 minutes (this allows more of the vanilla flavor from the pod to seep into the cream).  After 15 minutes remove the pods.

3. In the meantime whisk the egg yolks in a medium sized bowl and then 1/2 cup of sugar and whisk until the mixture lightens in color.

4. Make a water bath by taking a roasting pan (you can buy a disposable aluminum one if you don’t have one) and place a dish towel in the bottom and 6 empty ramekins (7-8 oz each) in it.  Then add boiling water into the roasting pan halfway up the sides of the ramekin (see above).

5. Temper the cream mixture into the egg mixture.  Pour the mixture into 6 (7-8 oz.) ramekins.  Bake for 40-45 minutes.  I always check them after 40 minutes.  You want the custard to be slightly set in the center (they will jiggle when they are cooked correctly).

6. Remove the ramekins from the pan and allow to cool mostly to room temperature.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for up to 3 days.

Wielding a Torch

Wielding a Torch

Beginning of Caramelization

Beginning of Caramelization

More Caramelization

More Caramelization

Caramelization (The Fun Part):

1. Remove the custard 30 minutes before proceeding.  If there is any condensation on the top, blot it with a paper towel.

2. Put about a tablespoon of sugar on top of each custard.  Swirl the ramekin to evenly distribute the sugar on top of the custard.

3. Turn on the torch and hold the ramekin at an angle.  Start with small circular movements until the sugar begins to bead up (see image Beginning of Caramelization, above).

4. Once the sugar begins to bead start to slowly turn the ramekin to allow the melted sugar to spread onto uncaramelized sugar.

5.  Once all the sugar is caramelized allow the sugar to cool some so it can form a delicious crust.   Enjoy!


5 Responses to “Vanilla Crème Brûlée”

  1. 1 fritish November 2, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    I like to use either demerara or turbinado sugar for the caramelization step. Regular “white” sugar can be processed from beets and not sugar cane. The demerara and turbinado sugar are processed from sugar cane and have a more “earthy” taste (for lack of a better term) and a golden color. If you like your coffee sweet, these types of sugar are better to use than white sugar. You’ll notice the difference. Try it and thank me.

  2. 2 Erica November 3, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    Mmmmm- and i wonder whose hands those are! I’ve used vanilla sugar before with my creme brulee’s and I definitely think its worth it. Now if you don’t use vanilla sugar a lot then its ok to not make some just for this since you have to have the vanilla bean sit in the sugar for a few weeks. Otherwise I also use vanilla sugar in a lot of different baking dishes.

  3. 3 fritish November 3, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    Those are Kyle’s hands… If only I had creme brulee. It would be so good…

  1. 1 Tempering « Safe To Eat Trackback on November 2, 2008 at 10:27 pm
  2. 2 Cheese Souffle « Safe To Eat Trackback on November 10, 2008 at 12:03 am

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