What is a Crème Brûlée? A rich custard made with egg yolks, sugar, cream and flavouring. It is usually finished with a thin piece of torched sugar at the top of the custard (the Brûlée). A hallmark of a great crème brûlée is that the custard remains cold even after torching. It should also have a well-defined flavour, and a crisp crackly top: you should be able to hear the the sugar shards crack as you dig into the sugar crust with a spoon. The custard should be light and silky, with a rich cream and caramel flavour. Like anything else, it comes down to temperature, taste, and texture.
- 2 egg yolks
- 26g sugar
- pinch of salt
- 200g cream
- 1/2 tsp vanilla paste (or other flavouring/extract)
- additional sugar to torch
- small pot
- 2 standard size ramekins
- small roasting pan
- small torch (or broiler)
- Preheat oven to 300°F.
- In a small pot, heat up cream (if you are infusing flavouring, otherwise you can omit this step).
- In a stainless steel bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar and salt.
- Once the cream is cooled, slowly whisk the cream into the egg yolk mixture. Be mindful not to incorporate too many air bubbles.
- Stir in vanilla paste (or other flavouring).
- Pour custard base into ramekin dishes.
- Fill roasting pan with boiled water, two-thirds of the way to the top. Place the filled ramekins in the pan.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, check the custard. When ready, remove ramekins from roasting pan and allow them to cool to room temperature. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- When ready to serve, sprinkle sugar on top and brulee with a torch (or use the broiler in your oven).
- reduce the sugar in the custard and make it savoury
- cold brew the cream with coffee grinds for a coffee creme brulee
- add citrus flavours by adding zest
- add a flower essence/oil (camomile, rose, violet) Note: be very conservative – a few drops will do!
- infuse the cream with (e.g., earl grey, jasmine, green tea)
- infuse the cream with herbs (e.g. mint, …)
FAQs, Tips, Troubleshooting:
- Why do we heat the cream? Heating the cream does two things: 1) it dissolves the sugar faster 2) you are able to infuse the flavouring such as fresh herbs and spices (but not necessary)
- For better flavour, make the mixture a night before and let it sit in the fridge to mature overnight
- To remove air bubbles, you can 1) let the mixture sit in the fridge overnight 2) pour the mixture through a very small strainer to knock out some of the air bubbles 3) slightly heat the surface with the torch
- The size of the container that the custard is in will dictate the amount of time needed for the custard to cook
- If the custard overcooks, it will lose its silky texture and become curdled.
- You can test for doneness by observing the jiggle of the custard, however if this not scientific enough for you… know that egg yolks coagulate at 70°C/ 158°F, so you can also use an instant read thermometer to test for doneness.
- Don’t make the layer of sugar too thick or it will not colour evenly or create a thin crust of caramel
- For a faster and more evenly browned sugar crust, you can caramelize the sugar ahead of time and grind it into a fine powder before topping the custard (this will require just a quick torch to re-melt on top).
- On temperature: The temperature I used was 300°F, but you can try using anywhere between 280-300°F. In test temperatures of 325°F, the custards puffed and browned slightly.
- On cooking custards with a water bath (aka bain-marie): Cooking in a water bath means that the heat will increase in a steady rate. Since the oven is a set at a relative low temperature, it’s easy to prevent the custards from being overcooked this way. With the addition of a water bath, water and custard should be at the same height in the pan so that the water can do its job properly.
- On sugar crust: The best approach is a small propane/ butane torch that you can find at the hardware store.