Don’t be intimidated by this classic egg custard dessert’s fancy perception. With these easy rules, crème brûlée really is a simple dessert to master.
There are just certain dessert dishes every home cook should be able to master and crème brûlée. Just like tiramisu, homemade berry pie, and brownies, crème brûlée is a total classic that will make any dinner guest swoon. This crème brûlée recipe comes from the cookbook The Perfect Egg by Jenny and Teri Lyn—the bloggers behind one of my favorite blogs, Spoon Fork Bacon. Their genius book is all about eggs, featuring 70 recipes that celebrate eggs in every form, including recipes for snacks, entrees, and of course, desserts like this surprisingly easy crème brûlée.
Crème brûlée is one of those desserts where if I see it on a menu, I’m rendered helpless and 9 times out of 10 will order it (and regret nothing!). You just can’t go wrong. And this recipe is so easy to make with a big payoff—perfectly creamy, rich vanilla bean custard, topped with a caramelized sugar topping. Is there anything more satisfying than the experience of taking a spoon and cracking that dreamy shell?
What is Crème Brûlée?
Crème brûlée is a classic French dessert, consisting of a rich, creamy, vanilla custard with a caramelized sugar top. The contrast of the smooth custard and the crunchy, slightly burnt caramel top that you puncture with your spoon is such a satisfying treat!
What’s in This Crème Brûlée
To make this easy crème brûlée recipe, you’ll need minimal ingredients, and because of that, you can’t substitute any of them.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Heavy cream
- Superfine sugar
- Vanilla bean (you might be tempted to use vanilla extract here, but don’t. Vanilla bean is key to this crème brûlée’s amazing, rich flavor.)
- Egg yolks
- Sanding sugar (coarse crystals)—is what you’ll use as your sugar topping. Sanding sugar is ideal because these larger sugar granules melt easier than the finer sugar.
How to Make Crème Brûlée
Crème brûlée sounds so fancy, so intimidating. Maybe it’s all those accent marks? But it’s actually one of the easiest desserts I’ve made, with little hands-on time. However, there are a few tricks to make it successful.
Bring the cream and sugar to a simmer. You’ll first need to combine the heavy cream with half of the superfine sugar in a medium saucepan. Then, scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean pod. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat while whisking constantly. Remove the mixture from the heat and let cool for 10 or so minutes.
Whisk the egg yolks with the superfine sugar. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with the remaining superfine sugar. Once slightly cooled, pour the hot cream mixture over the egg yolks, whisking constantly.
Prepare your water bath. Ladle the custard mixture into high-sided ramekins that have been placed in a roasting pan or baking dish. Place the baking pan in the oven, then pour hot water into it so it reaches about ⅔ of the way up the pan.
Bake the crème brûlées until the tops are set but still slightly jiggly. Once out of the oven, let them cool for an hour on the counter, then pop them in the fridge to cool for another hour.
Torch that top! Just before serving, sprinkle the crème brûlée with sanding sugar. Slowly wave a kitchen blowtorch back and forth over the sugar one custard at a time until the sugar melts and changes to an amber color.
Can I Prep This in Advance?
Yes, you can bake the crème brûlée and keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days before enjoying it. Wait to torch the top until just before serving it.
Do I Have to Use a Kitchen Torch?
You could go ahead and try to broil these babies under the broiler, but you’ll be hard-pressed to get the same effect. If you’re going to be making these often—which you will because once you make them the first time, it won’t be the last—invest in a hand-held kitchen culinary torch. There are several on the market, but this one seemed reasonably priced and did the job.
Do You Eat Crème Brûlée Hot or Cold
You want to chill your crème brûlée before topping it with sugar and torching.
Tips for Making Crème Brûlée
- First, you’ll need ramekins for baking the individual servings. You could use standard-issue ramekins like these, but I discovered these cute ramekins and snatched them right up. They’re just a bit more festive, but either will work swell.
- Breaking through the crackle of the crispy, the crackled crust is what distinguishes this dessert from a simple baked custard or pudding to elevate it to something noteworthy. To achieve that notable crust, you’ll need sugar.
- I use sanding sugar (coarse crystals) because it melts easier than the finer sugar, but you can try what you have on hand. I often ask the grocery store bakery if I can buy a little container from their supply and they are usually most agreeable.
- And perhaps the most important tip in cooking this easy crème brûlée is to allow the hot cream and sugar mixture to cool down just a bit before adding it to the egg mixture, and to add slowly while whisking constantly. Because while we do love eggs, we don’t love scrambled egg brûlée.
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Easy Crème Brûlée
Don’t be intimidated by this classic egg custard dessert’s fancy perception. With these easy rules, crème brûlée really is one of the simplest desserts to master.
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup superfine sugar
- 1 vanilla bean , halved lengthwise
- 5 egg yolks
- ¼ to ⅓ cup sanding sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and position a rack in the lower third of the oven.
Stir together the cream and ½ cup of the superfine sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Scrape the vanilla seeds from the inside of the pod halves and add them to the pan along with the pod halves. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the edges of the mixture just start to bubble. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for 10-15 minutes then discard the vanilla bean pod.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining ½ cup of superfine sugar until light and pale yellow.
Strain the cream mixture into a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup or another bowl then slowly pour about ¼ of the hot cream mixture (about ¾ cup) into the yolks in a slow, steady stream while whisking constantly. Slowly whisk the rest of the cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
Place the ramekins on a high-sided baking pan and ladle the custard, dividing it equally among the ramekins. Place the baking pan in the oven and carefully pour hot water into the pan to reach ⅔ of the ay of the sides of the ramekins.
Bake for 35-40 minutes until the custards are mostly set but still a bit wobbly in the center. Tent the ramekins with aluminum foil if they begin to brown.
Carefully remove the baking pan from the oven, and then carefully remove the custards from the water bath. Cool for 1 hour then refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 3 days.
To serve, sprinkle 1 generous tablespoon of the sugar evenly over the top of each custard. Slowly wave a kitchen torch back and forth over the sugar one custard at a time until the sugar melts and changes to an amber color. Let the custards sit just until the sugar hardens then serve immediately.
Serving: 4g | Calories: 691kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 72g | Saturated Fat: 43g | Cholesterol: 489mg | Sodium: 79mg | Potassium: 158mg | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 2948IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 145mg | Iron: 1mg
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