Recent Sweet

Crème Brûlée

This elegant dessert, made with just a few staple ingredients, is the perfect way to impress your significant other -- or to treat yourself to a decadent evening.

If you’re looking for a dessert to serve for Valentine’s Day, Galentine’s Day, or some evening when you want to feel fancy – this is the dessert for you. While it does require a few intermediate-level baking techniques, they are not hard to master as long as you take each step slowly. As a final step — regardless of whether you use a blowtorch or your oven’s broiler setting — the final transformation of a dusting of sugar into a layer of hard candy atop your custard is one of the baking world’s most climactic conclusions to any recipe.

Jump to Recipe

This recipe is heavily inspired by one of my favorite places to eat – Cafe Dodici, a small, authentic Italian restaurant in my hometown. The arrival of this restaurant was a major cultural achievement for our sleepy little Midwest burg, where, prior to Dodici’s arrival, the most culturally exotic meal available was refried bean burritos. Dodici’s owner lived in Italy for many years and brought to us a cuisine that was so much more compelling than just chicken alfredo and lasagna. Their menu is fresh, interesting, and was a true culinary revelation for our small town.

Cafe Dodici was the first place I ever tried crème brûlée. I still remember visiting on my birthday as an awkward preteen, cracking my spoon into the sugared crust and marveling at the custard beneath. Dodici’s recipe features bits of lime and orange zest in their crust, which gives the normally mild custard a light citrus tang. I’ve attempted to replicate that flavor here — both for the sake of nostalgia, and because I want you to sample this simple and wonderful dish.

For such an elegant dessert, this recipe has astonishingly few ingredients. With just cream, egg yolks, vanilla, sugar, and citrus zest, you’ll have a dessert fit for duchesses and monarchs. The trickiest part is the technique, but I’m confident you can quickly master it in your own home.

Start by preheating your oven to 325 degrees.

Combine heavy cream and vanilla bean paste in a saucepan over medium heat. Stirring continuously, bring just to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes while preparing other ingredients. (Stir periodically whilst allowing to cool, to avoid a skin developing atop the cream.)

Next, separate your egg yolks and place them in a mixing bowl.

Combine egg yolks, sugar, and salt; beat until the mixture is pale yellow and creamy, about 3 minutes. 

Temper the egg yolk mixture; slowly drizzle ½ cup of warm cream into the egg yolk mixture while beating. Slowly add the remainder of the warm cream while beating the egg yolks. This part can be tricky! Your goal is to avoid scrambling the eggs with the warm cream mixture. If you’re concerned, combine them more slowly than you think is necessary.

Zest one orange and one lime. Mix 1 teaspoon of each zest into your batter.

Green lime zest and orange zest float on top of a frothy white mixture of cream, sugar, and egg yolks. The picture is zoomed in; you can barely see the edge of the stainless steel bowl in which the batter sits.

Place a kitchen towel at the bottom of a 9” by 13” baking dish and place ramekins on top of the towel. Bring water to a boil (using a kettle, if you have one). While the water is coming to a boil, pour cream mixture directly into ramekins.

Several white ramekins sit atop a barely-visible red towel in a stainless steel 9 by 13 baking pan. Someone s pouring a creamy white mixture from a Pyrex measuring cup into a ramekin. One ramekin is already full.

Sprinkle each ramekin with a pinch more of your orange and lime zests.

Pour water into the pan beside the ramekins, making a water bath (or, as the French say, bain-marie.)  Enjoy the lovely steam that wafts up beside your little pots of cream. Although using boiling water makes this tricky, it is essential; if we used cold water, the crème brûlée would not cook completely. Instead of custard, our result would be sad, soggy, flavored cream. (I may or may not have had this lesson burned into my brain from an unfortunate incident on The Great British Bake Off.)

Six ramekins and two pyrex bowls, all filled with the cream mixture, sit in a 9 by 13 baking dish. A few wisps of steam are just visible wafting up above the baking dish.

Carefully place this bain-marie into your preheated oven. Bake for 45-60 minutes. In my oven, they were finished around 55 minutes, but my oven tends to run cool. The finished dessert should be just set; the center may jiggle, but it should not appear watery. (Think the center of a hot pumpkin pie, as opposed to a bowl of pumpkin soup.)

Using tongs or a hot pad, carefully remove ramekins from water bath and allow them to cool on a wire rack for 40-60 minutes before placing them in the refrigerator.

Several ramekins filled with yellow, cooked custard sit cooling on a stainless steel wire rack. The top of each custard is flecked with browned lime and orange zest.

Let the ramekins rest in the refrigerator until completely cooled, at least an hour. (This is technically optional – you can serve it warm, and it will still taste good – but this dish, like revenge, is best served cold.)

Immediately before serving, sprinkle each ramekin with approximately 1 tablespoon of sugar. If you want to go the extra mile, use ultrafine sugar — or making your own, by briefly blitzing granulated sugar in a blender or food processor. The blitz will break down the granules of sugar into tinier crystals (aka ultrafine), allowing for a smoother brûlée process. It is worth noting that I did not use ultrafine sugar in the photos below, and the recipe was still delicious.

Shake the ramekin and tip it from side to side to ensure the sugar coats the entire surface in a thin layer.

Two white ramekins sit on a wooden surface. Each ramekin is filled with pale golden custard; the custard is covered in a thin layer of granulated sugar.

Use a blowtorch to caramelize the sugar on each ramekin. If you don’t have a blowtorch, broil briefly on high, until the sugar has caramelized. Watch closely!

Your crème brûlée is ready to be served! Crack the surface with a spoon and enjoy the rich, creamy goodness.

Have you tried and enjoyed this recipe? Tag #WhiskAverseBaking on social media, or share your experience in the comments.

Creme Brulee

An elegant dessert, made with just a few staple ingredients.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
1 hr
Total Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine French
Servings 8 servings

Equipment

  • 8-10 four-ounce ramekins or Pyrex bowls
  • 9” x 13” baking dish
  • Kettle (optional)

Ingredients
  

  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • cup sugar plus one tablespoon per ramekin for topping
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 8 cups water

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
  • Combine heavy cream and vanilla bean paste in a saucepan over medium heat. Stirring continuously, bring just to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes while preparing other ingredients.
  • In a separate bowl, beat together egg yolks, sugar, and salt until the mixture is pale yellow and creamy, about 3 minutes.
  • Temper the egg yolk mixture; slowly drizzle ½ cup of warm cream into the egg yolk mixture while beating. Slowly add the remainder of the warm cream while beating the egg yolks. Mix in orange and lime zests.
  • Place a kitchen towel at the bottom of a 9” by 13” baking dish, and place ramekins on top of the towel. Bring water to a boil (using a kettle, if you have one).
  • Pour cream mixture directly into ramekins. Pour water into the pan beside the ramekins, making a water bath.
  • Carefully place water bath into your preheated oven and bake for 45-60 minutes. The finished dessert should be just set; the center may slightly jiggle, but it should not appear watery.
  • Using tongs or a hot pad, carefully remove ramekins from water bath and allow them to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes minutes before placing them in the refrigerator.
  • Immediately before serving, sprinkle each ramekin with approximately 1 tablespoon of sugar – just enough so that there is a thin, even coat of sugar across the top of each ramekin.
  • Use a blowtorch to caramelize the sugar on each ramekin. If you don’t have a blowtorch, broil briefly on high, until ramekins are caramelized. Watch closely!

Notes

Feel free to cut this recipe in half. 
For optimal caramelization, place sugar in your blender and blend for a few seconds before sprinkling on the ramekins. This creates a more “fine” texture to the sugar, and thus a more even caramelization.
Each custard can remain in the refrigerator for up to a week before caramelizing and serving.
Keyword cream, creme brulee, custard, gluten free

1 comment on “Crème Brûlée

  1. Pingback: Meringue Cookies – Whisk Averse Baking

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