Those who enjoy creamy, smooth desserts usually love crème brûlée but many shy away from making it.
How do I get the custard smooth enough? How do I keep the topping crisp? Should I serve it with anything or keep it plain? Should it be served hot or cold?
We’ve got the answers to these questions and more. Read on and you’ll soon be making delicious, affordable crème brûlée in your own kitchen!
Crème Brulee – What Is It?
Crème Brulee is a French dessert that literally means “burnt cream.” It is also known as “trinity cream.” This dessert has a smooth, rich custard base made with cream, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla.
The top is adorned with hard, caramelized sugar that gets shattered by the eater’s spoon to reach the custard beneath.
The dessert is actually a combination of cold and warm because the custard is chilled after cooking it. Just before serving, the caramel is put on top and this will still be warm when the dessert is served.
Traditionally, the custard is flavored with vanilla but some restaurants serve other variations. The original French version is unadorned apart from the caramel topping but today it is sometimes garnished with fruit.
Is Creme Brulee Served Cold?
Traditionally, this dessert is served after chilling it to allow the custard to set properly. After cooking and cooling the custard in the ramekins, they are covered and chilled for at least 45 min before serving.
If you are someone who likes to eat their desserts warm, you can serve crème brûlée warm as well but the sugar crust will be softer and the custard won’t be as firmly set.
Part of the pleasure of this dessert is the contrast of cold, creamy custard together with crunchy, warm caramel. If it is served warm, while still delicious, this contrast is lost.
Making Crème Brulee – The Right Technique
Crème brûlée is served in individual portions in ramekins. The custard is made on the stovetop and poured into heatproof ramekins.
The ramekins are then arranged in a water bath and baked in the oven until set but still wobbly. The water bath keeps the custard from splitting or getting bubbles in it so don’t omit it.
Once set, the custards are removed from the oven and cooled before being covered and chilled.
Tips Of Making Perfect Crème Brulee
This is not a difficult dessert to make if you follow a few simple rules and learn some basic techniques. Read on to learn the secrets so that your guests will think you’re hiding a French chef in the kitchen!
- Use small, shallow, wide ramekins rather than deep ones. The custard will set better in these. Try to get ones with handles as this will make them easier to remove from the water bath.
- For every two cups of cream you use, add a pinch of salt to bring out the flavors of the other ingredients. Using kosher salt avoids the metallic taste that ordinary table salt can impart.
- Use heavy cream rather than thin, pouring cream or half-and-half to ensure a richer custard.
- The ultimate kitchen tool for the best custard topping is a blowtorch. This melts the sugar topping beautifully and quickly. If you don’t have one, slide the puddings under a preheated grill. Be sure to place them on a baking tray first.
- Use vanilla extract rather than vanilla essence for the best, most authentic flavor.
- Add the hot cream to the beaten eggs very slowly or everything will curdle. It’s easiest to use a small ladle and drip in one ladleful at a time as you whisk. After you’ve added all the hot cream, strain the mixture through a fine sieve to ensure it’s beautifully smooth.
- It is vital to use a bain-marie (water bath) if you want smooth custard. Use a baking pan and put the custard-filled ramekins into it before adding hot water to the pan. The water should come about two-thirds of the way up the sides of the ramekins. It is easiest and safest to do this in the oven. Put the tray of ramekins into the oven then, with the oven door open, pour almost-boiling water directly from the kettle into the dish.
- Some people put a tea towel into the water bath and then put the ramekins on top. This stops them from overheating plus keeps them from sliding about in the dish.
- Some home cooks have difficulty with brûléeing the tops. Sprinkle the custard evenly with about one teaspoon of white sugar. Light the blowtorch and hold it about 10 cm away. Move the flame around the surface until the sugar melts and is caramelized. Sprinkle another teaspoon of sugar over this and repeat.
Our Ultimate Crème Brûlée Recipe
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons sugar plus 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 big egg yolks
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons white sugar (2 teaspoons for each ramekin)
1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F and put the oven rack in the center.
2. Arrange 6 ramekins on a tea towel in a baking dish.
3. In a pot, place the cream, 4 tablespoons of sugar, vanilla, and salt. Bring to a gentle simmer, stirring constantly.
4. Put the yolks in a bowl and beat gently.
5. Add the 6 tablespoons of sugar and whisk.
6. Gradually add the hot cream, whisking continuously as described previously.
7. Strain the custard and divide it among the ramekins.
8. Pour hot water into the water bath. Put everything into the oven and bake until the custards are just set but still wobbly – about 30-40 minutes.
9. Cool then cover and chill.
10. Top with the caramel as described above when you are ready to serve them.