Creme Brulee



Crème Brûlée is a French term for what the English refer to as Burnt Cream. The word brulee refers to dishes, such as custards, finished with a sugar glaze. This simple custard is cooked and cooled. A small amount of sugar is sprinkled on the top of the cooled custard and the sugar is caramelized using a small torch or beneath a broiler. This classic custard inherits its' delicate flavor from the simple mixture of cream and eggs. Traditional creme brulee does not use any additional flavorings such as vanilla. This is an old creme brulee recipe that dates back to 1909. It was taken from The Ocklye Cookery Book by Eleanor L. Jenkinson.

Traditional Creme Brulee Recipe

  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream or 1 1/4 cups heavy cream and 1 1/4 cups light cream
  • 4 large egg yolks, well beaten
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup superfine sugar*

Bring cream to a boil, and boil about 30 seconds. Pour it immediately into the egg yolks and whisk them together. Return the mixture to the pan and continue cooking without allowing it to boil. Stir the mixture until it thickens and coats the spoon. Pour the mixture into a shallow baking dish. Refrigerate overnight.

Two hours before the meal, sprinkle the chilled cream with the sugar in an even layer and place it under a broiler preheated to the maximum temperature. The sugar will caramelize to a sheet of brown smoothness. You may need to turn the dish in the grill to achieve an even effect. It is important that this step be done very quickly in order to keep the custard cold and firm and the top crisp and brown.

The custard in this recipe does not call for sugar. The sweetness is derived from the burnt sugar crust.

Serving size - 4 to 6

Creme Brulee Tools

 With every dish comes the commensurate kitchen paraphernalia which for some of us is much of the fun.  Here are some of the most popular items.

Heart shape dish Torch Standard Ramekin Flat Ramekin
heart shape creme brulee dish creme brulee torch creme brulee ramekin flat creme brulee dish

Custard Cooking Tips

  • It is important to keep the mixture in motion as it is heated very slowly. This will allow the protein in the egg to coagulate without creating lumps.
  • When you separate the eggs make sure to remove all traces of the egg white. Even a few drops of white in the yolks can produce a lumpy rather than smooth custard.
  • Use a heavy pan and cook over low heat. Some recipes suggest cooking the custard in a water bath. Either method is acceptable.

The Amazing Instant Creme Brulee

We found this truly amazing product at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, CA this year.  I was ready to pass the product by when the chef manning the booth said, "you have to try this".  So, I did.  The taste was excellent but to my amazement I found out it is a shelf-stable instant creme brulee.  Simply pour the contents of the box in a pan, heat, and pour into ramekins. That's it!  Chill and caramelize the tops as you normally would. 

There is nothing to add, no mixing, just heat and pour.  The box makes 8, 4oz servings.  If you don't want to use it all it will keep refrigerated for 20 days after opening.

This creme brulee was developed for restaurant use but we think it belongs in our homes. Keep on hand as a pantry essential for an emergency dessert!  Keep a few on hand for the busy holiday season.  You can buy Chef Creations Creme Brulee, 32-Ounce Cartons (Pack of 3) at Amazon

The Best Caramelizing Sugar

We tested several types of sugar including superfine, brown sugar, as well as granulated sugar.  Each type worked well but  we liked the flavor of the brown sugar the best. You can also purchased flavored caramelizing sugars online or in specialty stores which add a delicate hint of flavor to the topping. 



Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.