Time to get a little fancy and learn how to make one of my favorite desserts, creme brulee. This popular French dessert is basically a custard with melted sugar on top. You just feel sophisticated making and eating it, haha. Traditionally eaten for dessert, I have eaten it for breakfast, many times. Shh, don’t tell anyone.
If you want to impress your friends and family or that special someone, time to bring out the big guns and make them this easy homemade creme brulee recipe. This dessert works perfectly for Valentine’s Day or any special occasion.
This dessert is also known as burnt cream, Trinity cream, and is pretty much the same as the Crema Catalana. Don’t be intimidated by this. You go this, if I can do it, you can do it. Let’s get baking!
Step 1: Gather the ingredients and tools
In order to make creme brulee you need just a handful of ingredients:
- Heavy whipping cream – You can use regular whipping cream as well.
- Whole Milk – You can elect to double the amount of cream and leave the milk out, if you like.
- Vanilla extract or vanilla bean – Vanilla beans are very common in creme brulee. I have an amazing Mexican vanilla extract that I love to use. But I also have vanilla beans and use them too.
- Salt – This will balance out the sweetness and enhance the flavor.
- Egg yolks
- Sugar – White granulated sugar for the custard and to go on top, you can also use brown sugar on top.
*Make sure to scroll all the way down to the printable recipe for the exact amounts of the ingredients.
Step 2: How to make creme brulee at home
Combine the milk, cream, salt, and vanilla extract in a pot. Heat on medium-low heat until just shy of a boil. Right around 200 F/93C. It doesn’t have to be exact, but if you want to use a thermometer that is the temp it should be at.
There will be tiny bubbles around the edges and the surface in the middle will be moving but not quite bubbling. Make sure to stir occasionally while it is heating up. It will take 7 to 10 minutes for this part.
NOTE: Lots of people substitute the milk for more cream, which is a very common thing to do. I like the end result that the combo of both milk and cream gives me.
TIP: If you would like to use a vanilla bean, slice it down the middle and scrape the vanilla seeds and place those in the milk/cream mixture along with the pod and heat.
Once it heats up, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
Step 3: Finishing the creme brulee custard base
Now remove the yolks from the egg whites. I just shuffle the yolk in between two halves of the shell and allow the egg white to fall into a bowl. But you can separate them with whatever method you prefer. Place the yolks in a medium bowl.
Add the sugar to the egg yolks and gently stir with a wooden spoon, until it gets creamy and pale yellow, about a minute or two. Don’t use a whisk, it is too easy to make the mixture foamy, and we don’t really want that.
Now pour a little bit of the warm cream/milk through a strainer into the egg yolk mixture. The strainer catches things like vanilla seeds and other stuff. If you don’t use the vanilla bean, it isn’t necessary, but I still like to do it. If you did use a vanilla bean, do not skip this step.
Stir that into the egg yolk mixture. This is tempering the egg yolks. If you pour hot cream all at once, you might inadvertently cook the egg yolks.
Then pour in a little more, at this point it will be about a third of the mixture that has been mixed in. Once that is done, you can pour the rest in and gently stir until well-combined.
Your custard base is ready!
Step 4: Ramekins and Water Bath
Pour the custard base into a liquid measuring cup or something that has a spout. It just makes it easier to pour it into the ramekins. You could also use something like a ladle.
Fill up your ramekins to the line. I always pour it through the strainer again when I do this. It ensures a super smooth and creamy creme brulee.
Preheat the oven to 210F/98 C
Fill up a 13x9-inch baking pan with about an inch deep of really hot water, or about 4 cups worth. Place the ramekins inside.
Step 5: Baking the homemade cream brulee
The water bath is known as a bain-marie. It helps the thicker ramekins bake evenly, and the moisture in the oven keeps them from cracking.
However, if you use the wide shallow ramekins, you can do the dry method, meaning no water bath.
Now it is time to bake the creme brulee custard. If using the water bath, bake for 60 minutes. Then turn the heat up to 300F/148C for 15 to 20 minutes. Bake just until there is a slight wobble in the middle. It is very easy to tell. Just use an oven mitt and gently shake the pan.
NOTE: If using the shallow ramekins, you can forgo the water bath, just bake them dry and it will only take 45 to 55 minutes.
Some recipes call for 325F for 45 to 60 minutes when using the water bath. I kind of like the first option I mentioned better, bake for a longer time and at a lower heat. It produces a better texture for the custard in my opinion. But you can try either method for baking, and see what you like the best.
Once they have baked and have a slight wobble in the middle. Remove them from the oven. Let them sit in the water bath for a few minutes, then remove them and allow them to cool to room temperature, for 30 to 45 minutes.
Then chill in the fridge, uncovered, for at least 2 hours, or even overnight. Don’t rush the chilling time. Creme brulee needs to be really cold before you melt the sugar on top.
This dish works very well prepared the day before you want to serve it.
Step 6: Melting the sugar on top and finishing the creme brulee
Now for the fun part! Well, it is all fun, but this is the best part, melting that sugar with a kitchen torch! haha.
Take a tsp of sugar and tap the spoon with your index finger to allow a little sugar to fall off and onto the top of the custard. Move the spoon around tapping it, so it drops the sugar evenly on the top.
NOTE: You can also use brown sugar instead of white granulated sugar if you like.
Now use your butane kitchen torch and hold it about 2 to 3 inches from the top of the custard. Move the torch in small circles gently melting the sugar. Don’t stay in one spot too long. The sugar with eventually caramelize. If you hold it too long it will burn and get bitter. It should be a nice golden amber color. Don’t fret if you actually burn it, though. It takes a little practice.
And if you want to forgo melting the sugar on top, just eat the custard as is. It is so delicious.
Please be careful! That torch flame is incredibly hot around 2600 F/1430 C.
Once done allow it to cool for about 2 minutes, so the top can harden.
NOTE: You can try using the oven broiler, it doesn’t work that well, but it is an option.
Once the melted sugar hardens, you should be able to lightly tap the top of it, and hear that pleasant sound. Then dive in with your spoon and crack through it. Oh yeah, so yummy!!
I hope you enjoyed learning how to make creme brulee at home. 🙂
Is their a dairy-free creme brulee?
Yes! You can use full-fat coconut milk if you are dairy-free.
Do I have to use ramekins?
No. You can use any number of oven-safe dishes and containers. Mugs, teacups, small porcelain bowls, jars, muffin pans, etc. As long as they are oven-safe.
Why didn’t my creme brulee set?
Make sure you use the correct number of egg yolks, otherwise it won’t set properly. Also make sure and bake it the whole time, just until there is a slight wobble in the middle. Also, it needs to chill in the fridge for at the very least 2 hours, the longer the better.
Here are other recipes you may like:
- Wooden spoon
- Ramekins (I use the 6 oz ones)
- Kitchen torch or try using the broiler
- 1 cup of heavy whipping cream 237ml
- 1 cup of whole milk 237ml (or use 2 cups of cream)
- 1 tsp of vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean
- 1/8 th tsp of salt or just a pinch
- 5 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup of white granulated sugar
- Sugar to melt on top
- Combine the milk, cream, salt, and vanilla extract (or slit vanilla bean) into a pot and heat up with medium-low heat, just shy of a boil, around 200F/93C.
- Remove from heat and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and place them in a medium bowl. Save the egg whites for something else.
- Add the sugar to the egg yolks and gently stir with a wooden spoon until it becomes pale yellow. About 1 minute or so.
- Pour a little bit of the warm cream/milk through a strainer and into the egg yolk sugar mixture. Gently stir those together, then repeat with a little more warm cream.
- Pour the rest of the warm cream/milk into the bowl and stir until well combined. The custard base is ready.
- Pour the custard into a container with a spout, like a liquid measuring cup. Then pour it through the strainer again, and fill up the ramekins to the line.
- Preheat oven to 210F/93C
- Add about 4 cups of really hot water to a 13x9 inch baking pan. Then add the ramekins to it.
- Bake for 60 minutes. Then turn up the heat to 300 F/148 C and bake another 15 to 20 minutes until just barely wobbly in the middle.
- Remove from oven and let them cool a few minutes in the pan then remove from the water bath and allow to cool to room temperature, about 30 to 45 minutes.
- Next, chill the creme brulee in the fridge, uncovered, for at least 2 hours or even overnight.
- When ready to serve, sprinkle on about 1 tsp of white granulated sugar, evenly over the top.
- Now use the butane kitchen torch and gradually melt the sugar on top using small circular motions. Keep the flame about 2 to 3 inches from the sugar. Don't stay too long in one spot. It takes a little practice.
- Allow it to cool for a few minutes for the melted sugar to harden. Then serve. Crack it open with a spoon and eat it. Enjoy!
Do you like the recipe? Please give it a rating and comment down below, I really appreciate it. Save the Pin to Pinterest! If you make it tag me on Instagram @inthekitchenwithmatt. Also, sign up for the newsletter so you won’t miss out on any of my new posts and recipes.
Check out my other website 101 Creative Dates for fun date ideas. Food and dating go hand in hand!