The best ever easy crème brûlée!
The first “real job” I had was working at a restaurant near my home. I ended up working there for 7 and 1/2 years — all through high school and right up until I graduated college. A lot of the employees were there just as long (or longer) than me and I made so many great friends.
One particular friend — the restaurant’s pastry chef. He made a lot of the desserts and most of the breads we served at the restaurant. One of the nicest guys ever and a through and through foodie. I often worked Saturday mornings and would go a little early to chat with him about all things bread and pastry making. He’d share his secrets and I’d listen in complete captivation.
One particular Saturday morning I asked him about his famous crème brûlée. I was obsessed with his crème brûlée and anytime I could get a dessert for free (I was always to cheap to shell out the $7-8 for one) I’d get that crème brûlée. He practically laughed at me when I begged for the secrets to the crème brûlée because he admitted it to be the easiest dessert he made. I couldn’t believe that dessert was simple to make!
But he is right! Crème brûlée is not an overly tricky dessert to make! It takes a lot of patience in waiting for it to be ready, but hands on time is pretty minimal relatively speaking to dessert making. It also requires few ingredients – 5 ingredients to be exact. So let’s break down the ever elusive crème brûlée and learn how to make it!
How do you make crème brûlée?
- Start by preparing your ramekins. I’ve tested this recipe in 4-ounce, 5-ounce, and 6-ounce ramekins — it works great in all of them, but my preference is the 5-ounce ramekins (I like the thickness of the crème brûlées best.) Set the ramekins in a 9 x 13 metal pan and set aside. We’re going to cook the crème brûlées in a water bath so it’s important to put them in a pan. You do not need to purchase speciality ramekins for these crème brûlées — if you have 4, 5, of 6 ounce ramekins they’ll work.
- Make the custard filling: the custard filling is two parts. First, you’ll beat egg yolks and vanilla bean seeds with superfine sugar. I like to use organic eggs for crème brûlées. Since the yolks are what give color to the crème brûlées you’ll want really pretty yellow yolks (which I’ve found come from organic eggs). The other part of the filling is the heavy cream mixture. I add some flaky sea salt and the pod of a vanilla bean to the simmering heavy cream mixture. This crème brûlée recipe calls for a full vanilla bean and you’ll use both parts of it — the seeds and the pod (which still has plenty of flavor). I definitely prefer using a vanilla bean in this recipe because it adds the pretty black specks (which are the vanilla beans) and an incredible flavor. If you can’t get a vanilla bean, you can use pure vanilla extract.
- Bake the custard filling: You’ll combine the heavy cream mixture and egg mixture by tempering the eggs. Once combined you’re ready to pour this mixture into the ramekins. The pan surrounding the ramekins is filled with boiling water and baked for 30-35 minutes or until the centers slightly jiggle.
- Chill the crème brûlées. Once baked, you’ll chill the crème brûlées for 3-4 hours. (The hardest part of making these!) And once they’ve been sufficiently chilled, it’s time for the fun part! Add some superfine sugar (which caramelizes better) to the tops of your custards and torch the with a kitchen torch! You’ll want to eat these pretty quickly after being torched as they don’t sit well with the caramelized tops!
Can you make crème brûlée without a torch?
Yes! While I do prefer crème brûlées to be caramelized with a torch, they will work in the oven! You’ll want to move your oven rack to the top position and heat the oven to a high broil. Once the oven is heated, add the custards topped with superfine sugar to a tray. Place the tray on that top shelf and watch carefully as they broil. It only takes 1-3 minutes so watch closely to avoid burned crème brûlées.
More Delicious Desserts:
The best easy Crème Brûlée
- 1 full vanilla bean (I like Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans) (You can use 1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract)
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 5 large egg yolks, must be at room temperature*
- 3/4 cup superfine white sugar, separated
- 6 cups water
- Optional: fresh berries to serve with
Start by splitting the vanilla bean down the center. Scrape out all the seeds and place into a large bowl. Take the vanilla bean pod and place in a small pot with the sea salt and heavy cream.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Cook the heavy cream mixture just until the cream is simmering. Do not boil! Remove from the stovetop and set aside to slightly cool. Remove the vanilla bean pod (IF using vanilla extract, stir it in here).
In the bowl with the vanilla bean seeds, add the egg yolks (I like to save the whites in a tupperware container for omelettes during the week!) and 1/2 cup superfine sugar. Beat until the mixture is light, about 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, place 6 cups of water in a large pot and heat to boiling point.
Add about 1/4th of the cream mixture into the egg + sugar mixture. Mix until combined. Then pour the (now tempered) egg + sugar mixture into the remaining heavy cream mixture. Stir until combined. Place the ramekins (6 4-ounce ramekins, 5 5-ounce ramekins, or 4 6-ounce ramekins) in a metal 9 x 13 baking pan. Pour the prepared mixture evenly into the ramekins. Fill up the metal baking pan with boiling water halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until centers are barely set (very slight jiggle). Cool completely at room temperature and then refrigerated for 3-4 hours before serving (Alternatively these can be refrigerated 4-5 days before using).
When ready to serve, separate the remaining 1/4 cup superfine sugar on top of the custards. I find it helpful to use a little more sugar than needed to swirl the dish around and make sure the top is evenly coated with sugar (then just pour extra sugar onto the next ramekin). Use a kitchen torch to torch the tops until the sugar melts and browns (or even slightly blackens) a bit. Top with fresh berries and enjoy immediately 🙂
Alternatively if you want to use your oven: move your oven rack to the top position and heat the oven to a high broil. Once the oven is heated, add the custards topped with superfine sugar to a tray. Place the tray on that top shelf and watch carefully as they broil. It only takes 1-3 minutes so watch closely to avoid burned crème brûlées.
*To get the eggs quickly to room temperature, you can soak the full eggs in some warm water for 3-5 minutes. (There is a video tutorial of this recipe right above this written recipe.)