Monday, February 12, 2024

Crème Brûlée


This classic Crème Brûlée is a very chic dessert to have in your entertaining food repertoire. Donna Hay's recipe was the one I used, but I added a couple of modifications to it which worked beautifully. A silky and rich custard has a topping of thin caramelised crunchy toffee. It's an absolute delight to crack through the toffee layer with a spoon to discover the rich vanilla infused custard waiting below. 

This is French chic personified in a dessert, and whilst it takes a little time to make, it took little to no extra effort. It is very much within the capabilities of the home cook, and that's you my friends. There are just 4 simple ingredients, thickened cream, sugar, vanilla, and egg yolks. I made the desserts a day ahead and kept them refrigerated until I was ready to scorch the toffee topping with my blow torch before we ate it. However, the toffee crackling can be caramelised under the grill of your oven.

Once I'd eaten Crème Brûlée in an authentic French restaurant, I became addicted to this classy and delicious dessert. 

My son Matthew took me out to La Tomate Restaurant in Montpellier, a favourite of the locals because of it's authentic French meals and I will always remember how sensational their Crème  Brûlée was. I think I've come pretty close with the taste and texture of mine. However, no doubt the dish this Brûlée below was served in is authentic with a larger circumference, which gives the diner more toffee. Unfortunately I don't have any of those dishes, yet.

If you would like to check out the other dishes we ate at La Tomate, click on this link and you will be transported there.


Serves 4

2 cups (500 ml) pure thickened cream

2 vanilla beans, split and the seeds scraped

5 egg yolks

1/4 cup (55 g) caster sugar (superfine), plus 2 tablespoons extra, for sprinkling.


This recipe requires 4 x 3/4 cup (180 ml) capacity ramekins and a large baking dish.

Preheat your oven to 150 deg. C.

Into a medium sized saucepan, pour the cream, add 1 vanilla bean and the seeds of two vanilla beans, and cook until the mixture is just below boiling. A vapour will rise off the surface of the cream, and then very small bubbles will start to appear. The cream is now ready to be removed from the heat.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until smooth. The vanilla bean should now be removed from the cream and discarded. 

Select your whisk, and very gradually, and I did this from a jug requiring less coordination, add the vanilla cream to the egg yolk mixture, whisking until well combined. I didn't strain mine through a sieve like some people recommend, but you can if you wish. It's just an extra step to deal with.

Place your 4 ramekins, 4 x 3/4 cup (180ml) capacity into a deep baking dish. Pour the mixture into the ramekins.  Pour boiling water into the baking dish so that it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. (I poured the boiling water into the baking dish after I had already placed it in the oven. I just pulled the oven rack out a little and it was a cinch to do it this way. The rack then just needs to be moved very smoothly back into the oven.)

Very carefully move the baking tray into the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes. The centres should be still very wobbly.

Carefully remove the ramekins from the dish and refrigerate for 4-6 hours or until chilled and set. 

When you are ready to serve your dessert, Sprinkle each Crème Brûlée with 2 teaspoons of the extra sugar. I used a kitchen blowtorch to caramelise the tops, however this can be done under the grill in your oven.

Cook's notes:

  • These desserts are perfect to make the day before you want to serve them. Keep covered in the refrigerator. I used a large plastic container with a lid. You then don't need to touch them again until just before serving dessert, when the toffee is caramelised.
  • If you can't find vanilla beans, just replace them with 2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste.
  • Boiling the cream and the vanilla beans or paste is what give this spectacular dessert a silky-smooth texture.
  • I used the seeds of two vanilla beans instead of one, because I used the beans that a friend had grown and processed herself. I was a little concerned that perhaps they weren't as full of seed as some of the more commercially grown varieties. It worked out very well. 
  • Since I made these, I now have a more industrial model of blowtorch thanks to lovely friends coming to the rescue. My other blowtorch wasn't working as well as I had hoped. Never mind, we still had a toffee topping.
  • The extra vanilla bean from which you have scraped the seeds can be added to your caster sugar container to give it a lovely vanilla flavour.

Bon appétit,



  1. They turned out absolutely perfect, Pauline.

  2. This is one of the desserts that I will order when I’m out at a restaurant, as so many of them offered are too heavy after a meal. You might think that cream would be heavy, but it’s actually pretty light. I also love that your recipe isn’t over sweet. Here in the you US, they tend to add a lot more sugar than elsewhere. Thanks, Pauline — David (C&L)

    1. Thanks David, you really must order this when you are in Paris, it should be divine.

  3. I haven't had crème brulée for a while, but what a fantastic dessert, probably my favourite French entremet! :)

    1. Thanks FoodTrotter, it's probably mine too, but a good chocolate mousse is also delicious.

  4. I love a creme brûlée, especially the first crack of the caramel followed by the velvety smooth custard.

  5. I'm with you Anne, it is a dessert to savour. Thanks so much for your comment.

  6. Crème Brûlée is my signature dessert and I have a recipe that works perfectly every time. It comes from a restaurant where I first had this dessert as a child in 1974, and it is the only dessert I order when I eat there, to this day. And I use it as my standard to see how other restaurants measure up.

    1. How nice Tandy, it's always reassuring to know that what you order will be perfect. I would like to see your creme brulee recipe sometime.

  7. I do love a creme brulee! Tho I did have one at a restaurant once where the custard underneath was a horrible warm runny mess. Too much grill or blow torch I guess. AArggghh ...

    1. Thanks for commenting Sherry. I had my fingers crossed that mine would be the perfect custard and it was. I would think that the fault lay with the custard with the one you ordered.

  8. I love creme brûlée. I love the crispy sugar top too! Beautiful.


  9. These look fabulous - I've always been a bit scared of making creme brulee and put it in the too hard basket but now I might have to give them a go. Love that you can make the custard the day before and then finish them off just before serving :)

    1. Thanks Sammie, I know you would be able to make this dessert without any trouble. Great to hear from you.

  10. Any excuse to use a culinary torch is a gold-medal day as far as I'm concerned! And any dessert you can make in advance is also such an advantage. Thanks for all your tips!

    1. I love using a culinary torch as well Jeff, I hope you take the leap to make this dessert and enjoy it as much as we did. Thankyou for your very nice comment.

  11. These look absolutely delicious. I can't wait to make them.


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