I Dare You: Crème Brulee

Studio 5 Contributor Susan Neal shows us how.

A perfect ending to a lovely dinner out.

The spoon cracks the golden top and sinks into a luscious creamy center.

It ends all too quickly and you’re tempted to lick the dish…but you don’t because that would be bad manners.

Crème Brulee is on almost every fine restaurants’ menu. It’s a classic; purportedly created in England’s Trinity college as a ‘burnt cream’ dessert, but the French also lay claim to it, hence the French name “Crème Brulee”. We’ll let them duke it out while we enjoy eating it!

Crème Brulee is not commonly made in the home cooks’ kitchen…too intimidating!

But the very reasons restaurants love this dessert are the same reasons we should be making it at home: It’s a great make-ahead dessert that is inexpensive to create and never fails to impress.

Because the list of ingredients is small (only four!), much of the success of this dessert depends on technique.

Let me share a few tricks that might help.

Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee
{Simple, inexpensive ingredients, plus a little technique makes for a decadent dessert}


• 1 Vanilla bean

• 2 ½ cups heavy Cream

• 8 egg yolks

• 1/3 cup super fine sugar

• 1/3 cup super fine sugar (to create brulee)


Heat oven to 350 F.

Slit the vanilla bean in half, lengthwise and put in the sauce pan. Pour the cream into the pan, heat on medium, bring the cream to almost a boil. Take off the heat and allow to stand and steep for 15 minutes. This will allow the vanilla flavor to marry with the cream.

Take the vanilla bean out of the cream. Scrape the black vanilla seeds from inside of the bean with a knife and put back in the cream. Read my tips to see what to do with the leftover beans…don’t throw them away! Strain cream and pour back in the pot. Keep warm on stove top.

Place egg yolks into a medium sized bowl and beat with whisk. Add 1/3 cup sugar and beat some more until well combined. Slowly add hot cream into the egg mixture and whisk as you pour. It’s very important that you do this very slowly or you will cook the eggs, which will affect the texture of the cream. Once you’ve added about half of the cream to the eggs, add the egg mixture to the rest of the cream in the pot and mix well.

Place oven proof ramekins in a 9 x 13 pan. You will be creating a water bath. This helps the cream set without cracking. The water has to reach halfway up the ramekins. The easiest way to do this is to place the pan in the oven and then pour the hot water into the dish carefully. You don’t want to splash any water into the ramekins. Bake for 20-25 minutes. The time really depends on how large and deep the ramekins are. Check after 15 minutes, but most ramekins will take 20 minutes to cook. As soon as it doesn’t jiggle in the middle, they are done.

Carefully remove pan to cooling rack. You could try removing some of the water with a turkey baster first, but either way, be very careful not to get water in the ramekins. Allow the crème brulees to cool in water for about 20 minutes. Remove from pan refridgerate uncovered for 2-3 hours. You can do this a whole day before serving, but loosely cover with wrap for that length of time, or the top will dry out the edges will start to pull away from the sides.

About 30 minutes before serving, remove from fridge, sprinkle tops with superfine sugar, shake to distribute evenly over surface. Caramelize tops. You can either use a crème brulee torch specifically designed for the dessert (they often come in kits), a blow torch (be careful with this, it’ll burn quickly, so keep a fair distance) or under the broiler.

You have more control with a torch, but the broiler can work too, but do not leave the oven even for a moment. It goes pretty quickly! You want a dark golden brown top, not black! Don’t worry if the top doesn’t look perfectly golden in every part…that’s what a dollop of whipped cream is for!

You can place dessert back in the fridge for a short period of time (not more than 30 minutes or the brulee starts to soften) or leave at room temperature to serve.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream (yes, you need more!) and some berries.

There are so many exciting variations of crème brulee, I highly recommend a good recipe book like this one by whitecap publications.


• I take the leftover beans and let them dry out and place in a jar with sugar. After awhile you’ll have a beautiful scented vanilla sugar!

• You can use the traditional ramekins for Crème Brulee, but be creative. As long as it’s ovenproof and not too deep you can use it. I’ve used mini soup bowls, teacups and recently I found a spoon rest at Bed, Bath & Beyond. It was the perfect size and a really interesting serving dish. See picture at top.

• Once you feel confident with making this dessert, you can start adding your favorite flavors for some fun variations! A touch of lime, some butternut squash, peanut butter? Oh, I have to try that one! Good luck!

I DARE YOU: Crème Brulee

By Susan Neal


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