Classic Creme Brulee Recipe. Crème brûlée also known as burnt cream, crema catalana, or Trinity cream is a dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a contrasting layer of hard caramel. It is normally served at room temperature.
The custard base is traditionally flavored with vanilla, but can also be flavored with lemon or orange (zest), rosemary, lavender, chocolate, Amaretto, Grand Marnier, cinnamon, coffee, liqueurs, green tea, pistachio, hazelnut, coconut, or other fruit.
The earliest known reference to crème brûlée as it is known today appears in François Massialot’s 1691 cookbook, and the French name was used in the English translation of this book, but the 1731 edition of Massialot’s Cuisinier roial et bourgeois changed the name of the same recipe from “crème brûlée” to “crème anglaise”. In the early eighteenth century, the dessert was called “burnt cream” in English.
In Britain, a version of crème brûlée (known locally as “Trinity Cream” or “Cambridge burnt cream”) was introduced at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1879 with the college arms “impressed on top of the cream with a branding iron”. The story goes that the recipe was from an Aberdeenshire country house and was offered by an undergraduate to the college cook, who turned it down. However, when the student became a Fellow, he managed to convince the cook.
Classic Creme Brulee Recipe
Prep Time:15 min
Inactive Prep Time:2 hr 15 min
Cook Time:1 hr
Serves: 6 servings
- 1 quart heavy cream
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 1 cup vanilla sugar, divided
- 6 large egg yolks
- 2 quarts hot water
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and reserve for another use.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
- Remove the creme brulee from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup vanilla sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.