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Few desserts are associated with luxury and sophistication quite like creme brulee, a simple, yet delightfully rich custard, flavored with vanilla and topped with a signature layer of caramelized sugar. A classic creme brulee recipe requires a few humble ingredients. The real challenge lies in achieving a silky smooth custard and caramelizing the sugar to perfection. Keep in mind that when it comes to executing a creme brulee recipe, practice might be the most important ingredient of all.

Total Time: 60 minutes | Prep Time: 30 minutes | Serves: 8

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons turbinado sugar 

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. If you are using a vanilla bean, scrape the insides of the pod into the cream using the tip of a knife. Add the pod to the cream as well.

  2. When the cream has boiled, remove the saucepan from the heat. Remove and discard the vanilla pod and set the cream aside to cool.

  3. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks together with the granulated sugar. Slowly add the cream. Whisk until completely blended.

  4. You want the creme brulee to be smooth, so run the cream, egg and sugar mixture through a sieve. If you have opted to use vanilla extract rather than a vanilla bean, this is the time to add it.

  5. Boil water in a pot or a kettle. It will be used to cook the creme brulee in a water bath.

  6. Using a ladle, divide the creme brulee batter into eight (5-ounce) fireproof ramekins. Be sure not to use glass ramekins, which can break later on when it comes time to caramelize the sugar. 

  7. Place the ramekins in a large roasting pan and pour the hot water around them. The ramekins should be about halfway immersed in the water.

  8. Bake the creme brulee for about 30 minutes. The custard should be firm, but will jiggle a bit in the center when you move it. 

  9. When baking is complete, remove the ramekins from the water bath and refrigerate them for at least two hours, uncovered. If you are making them in advance of a party or other event, note that creme brulee can be refrigerated for up to three days. If this is the case, cover the creme brûlées after they have been in the refrigerator for about four hours. 

  10. When you are ready to serve the creme brûlées, remove the ramekins from the refrigerator and use a paper towel to gently wipe away any water droplets that have condensed on the surface.  Allow them to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

  11. Sprinkle turbinado sugar on each ramekin. Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar. Hold the torch about 3 inches from the custard and move it back and forth so that the sugar caramelizes evenly. 

  12. Let the creme brûlées sit for five minutes before serving so that the sugar has a chance to harden.

Love coffee? Jazz up your creme brulee recipe by adding 1 1/2 tablespoons of instant coffee to the cream while it's heating.

Tip

Don't have a kitchen torch handy? Use your oven's broiler to caramelize the sugar. After the creme brûlées are chilled, sprinkle them with brown sugar – it melts better in the broiler than turbinado or white sugar – and place them in the broiler for about five minutes.

About the Author

Nathalie Alonso

Since beginning her career as a professional journalist in 2007, Nathalie Alonso has covered a myriad of topics, including arts, culture and travel, for newspapers and magazines in New York City. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Columbia University and lives in Queens with her two cats.