Creme Brûlée. It’s Judgment Day.

Creme Brulée (6 of 7)Don’t go running to build yourself and the cat an ark and don’t fall on your knees asking for forgiveness. If you feel the need to do either on impulse after reading my headline, perhaps you need to adjust your lifestyle somewhat. I’ll leave that up to you to decide. No, when I say “It’s Judgement Day” I am not predicting the end of days or anything awful like that. I am referring to my Creme Brûlée.

They say that one can judge the quality of a restaurant by its Creme Brûlée. So I feel it’s time I laid my soul bare and asked you to pass judgment on my best effort at the classic dish. There is not a lot to doing this and I wonder how so many restaurants manage to get it so badly wrong. I am adding to my complication by using lactose free cream to suit the two lactards (one who is lactose intolerant) in our house.

Creme Brulée Ingredients

A really simple set of ingredients. 4 in total. How do they mess it up in restaurants?

The ingredients

  • Half a litre of cream (Lactose free if encumbered by lactards.)
  • Half a dozen eggs (Yolks only, I guess meringues are also on the menu.)
  • 140 grammes of vanilla sugar (If you are organised enough to have made some.)*
  • 1 quality vanilla pod (Don’t buy cheap ones, spend the money!)

*Vanilla sugar is simply a jar of sugar with a vanilla pod in. Do this a few days or weeks in advance and you will get beautifully aromatic sugar.

The instructions could not be much easier. Firstly, separate the eggs and add the sugar to the yolks. This calls for a pouring shot.

Creme Brulée

Eggs separated and sugar being added. No problem so far.

Next, split a vanilla pod lengthways and extract the seeds on the side of a knife blade. This is the most aromatic thing one can do, if it is possible to ‘do’ aromatics.

Creme Brulée

The heady aroma of a decent vanilla pod is unique. Do not use vanilla essence.

Add the seeds and the chopped up vanilla pod to the cream in a saucepan. Bring this to a gentle boil.

Creme Brulée

This is the second most aromatic thing one can do with a vanilla pod. Heavenly aromas.

While that’s going on, beat the egg and sugar mixture until mixed nicely. It will look like this;

The key to a good Brulée is in the beating of the eggs, I hear.

The key to a good Brulée is in the beating of the eggs, I hear.

When you have them beaten, beat them again, only stopping when you have transformed them into a much lighter colour and much smoother mix, something along these lines;

Creme Brulée

As with all hand beating, your arm will be sore after it but, it’s worth it.

Pour in the just simmering cream, beating as you go.

Creme Brulée

A second pouring shot is called for here. In fact, it’s a pouring and beating shot. Twice as difficult.

Transfer this, through a sieve, to a large jug and pour into six ramekin dishes.

Creme Brulée

You will start to get tired of the pouring shots at this rate.

Pop these into a Bain Marie (water bath) and put them into a 160° C oven for 35 to 40 minutes.

Creme Brulée

Six of them languishing in a bath. Hopefully, there will only be four for dinner.

Take them out and let them cool. Refrigerate them for a couple of hours minimum (A day or two if you need to.). Next, sprinkle them with some more of the sugar and take the blow torch to them, being careful not to over burn the sugar.

The fun bit, attacking them with a blow torch.

The fun bit, attacking them with a blow torch.

Let the sugar set (a couple of minutes. Then serve and take the praise. I was very happy with the outcome and we were left wondering how so many restaurants make such a mess of this easy and delicious classic desert.

Creme Brulée

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as the old saying goes.

Share your thoughts please. Do we get judged as a Creme Brûlée success? Or, do I go and start on the ark?

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Latest comments
  • Beautiful job! Our son loves this.

    • Thanks Rosemary, Pretty popular in our place too. I did a pana cotta at the weekend. Very similar but completely different. Posting later when I get a chance to write something about it.

  • Lovely! Must try them soon.

  • No need to start the Ark, definitely a success!

    • And the rain has stopped. I must have got it right!

  • Very nice description, thoughts and photos, I am going to try to make this. I have always wondered why especially the ‘simple’ food (at least for a chef this must not be too difficult) in restaurants is often so messed up, also in Spain. Thanks!

    • It is that way the world over, I am afraid. It is not difficult, chef or not. Do try it.

  • Beautiful consistency and gorgeous colour : methinks you really can take a bow 🙂 ! One of the few ‘naughty’ desserts I do find hard to pass up!!!

    • I don’t make them often (this was my second attempt ever) and I feel I deserve one every now and then.

  • Hands-down thee best dessert in the history of the universe. Your minimalist lead photo says it all, simply and straight to the delicious point. Love it!

    • Thanks Aoife. I was pretty pleased with that shot. Not often I get them that way…

  • Such an easy thing to make. I saw it made on a bad reality tv cooking show and realised that if those knobs could make, so could I!
    Nailed it first go.
    I have no idea why there seems to be some sort of taboo about this dish.

    • Well said. Nothing too difficult about it. Great fun with the blowtorch too!

  • One of my favourites. It’s on my list to try, just need to get the butane for our torch! This looks lovely and I love the idea of vanilla sugar.

    • Get the butane. The vanilla sugar is fantastic. Hard to believe how much flavour it imparts in a few days.

  • Crème Brûlée, Trinity Cream and Crema Catalana, whatever it’s called it’s my favourite and I always order it if it’s on the menu. Yours looks excellent, don’t start an ark until you’ve made some more 😉

    • Thanks MD. It is surprising how often it is of poor quality in restaurants. There is very little to it.

      • I think some of them cheat and buy it preprepared – it might not even have real eggs in it 🙁

  • One of my favorite desserts. You’ve got to love any dish that requires hand tools and flame.

    • Excellent point Glenn. Though, my lot all took turns flaming their own. That took some of the fun out of it for me.

  • See ! I told you that you are THE Bestest Iron Chef out there ! Look at the star-quality of your Crème Brûlée ! I can eat a bucket full of that ! Yes I can ! You have no idea how much Crème Brûlée I can eat even when I’m full 🙂

    • Thanks Nusrat. A bucket full might be just too much at one sitting.

  • It looks perfect!

  • Tres bon!

  • I’d say a glowing success, Conor. Not sure how you pulled it off with lactose-free cream, but by golly, you did it. If you were a restaurant, I’d give you 5 stars. Heck, I’ll give you 5 stars anyway.

    • You are as smooth as the creme brulée itself Tommy.
      Thanks for that,

  • Absolutely on top of my favorite dessert list! Anything that includes the use of fresh cream is perhaps on top of my every existing food list! These look fabulous so does that copper pot!

    • Thanks. I am getting a lot of use from the copper pots and pans. They are lovely to cook with as long as I remember how hot the brass handles get!

  • That looks SO good. It’s settled; I need a blowtorch.

    • One canister of lighter gas will probably last a lifetime, unless you start to burn the weeds on the patio, as I did.

  • Lovely, one of my all time favourite desserts, executed beautifully! I favour it just with vanilla, no messing with fruit, coffee or alcohol. I’ve used the same recipe for 20 years, never fails me, so it’s always a standby dessert. So true what you say about judging a restaurant by its brûlée, why can’t it be delivered with panache more often? Great post, thanks, Tracey.

    • Hi Tracey, that is indeed so true. Steer clear of those restaurants.

  • Hi Conor, excellent post! Crème brûlée is great when it’s prepared right, and you are right that I haven’t had a lot of good cb at restaurants. I think it’s due to the importance of getting the caramel just right, which has to be done at the last moment.

    Here’s my judgement…
    (Interesting from a linguistic point is that in this case you use US spelling while I use UK spelling, since that’s usually the other way around.)

    The quality of cb depends on: (1) quality of the ingredients, (2) silkiness of the custard, (3) flavor of the caramel, (4) crispiness of the caramel, (5), caramel to custard ratio, (6) sweetness, and (7) temperature.
    (1) You have used the proper ingredients, although I would use real cream since I usually don’t have to deal with lactose intolerants. The most important by far is the real vanilla bean, which you have used (and I can vouch for the quality). Score!
    (2) Hard to be sure without tasting, but from your final picture it looks great. Score!
    (3) It should be brown and not black. From the photos I’d say this is a score as well!
    (4) The caramel should be sufficiently thick (not too thick either), but most especially you should be able to hit it with a spoon and then it should break like a layer of ice. From the photo it seems that you managed to get this perfectly right. Score!
    (5) There should not be too much custard, so you can have some caramel with each spoonful of custard. You didn’t fill the ramekins to the brim, so this looks OK to me. Score!
    (6) This is a personal preference. Did you use 140 grams for the custard, and then more for the caramel? I’d probably use only 100 grams or so for the custard, but I haven’t done a side by side test to find out how much sugar I like best.
    (7) The custard should be cool (not cold) and certainly not warmer than room temperature. The caramel may be slightly warm or at room temperature. Looks like you’ve nailed this one as well!
    In conclusion, rather than building an ark I would recommend you take up a career as a crème brûlée consultant at restaurants 🙂

    • That is the best comment I have ever received on what I am doing over here. I did use 140 grams for the custard and as much as looked right for the caramel. Using vanilla sugar (with that Amsterdam vanilla) makes a real difference too.
      I look forward to seeing restaurant staff cower on my arrival… In my dreams!

      • I may have already told you this: after using the vanilla bean for making the custard, you can dry it and still use it to put in the sugar jar.

        • Excellent point. However, I had chopped it up and used it to flavour the custard. Perhaps chopping it was over the top?

          • I’d forgotten about the chopping part because there wasn’t a photo of that. The usual preparation is to scrape out the seeds like you did and leave the pod whole to make it easier to take it out. You solved this by using a sieve. Chopping will enhance the extraction, but I’m not sure by how much. A new trick I learned recently is to use a teaspoon rather than a knife to scrape out the seeds. I was surprised at how much faster that was and I hope I will remember to include this trick in the next post I do that uses a vanilla pod.

          • I will have to try the spoon. I have found that I get some of the pith into the custard using the knife, unless I am very careful. Good tip.

  • Got to love anything that requires the use of a blowtorch to make!

  • Technique was spot on, Conor. You definitely did it justice. Nice pouring shots and blow torch shot. I would be afraid to do the blow torch shot without Baby Lady for fear of catching the camera on fire or melting the lens, at least. 😮

    • My Mum, the Wife, both daughters and one boyfriend all insisted on blowtorching their own. I was worried then.

  • Really not sure how I can follow Stephane’s comment but safe to say, I’ve made these often and they have become a favourite in the Food Frankly household.

    I will say, I once tried grilling the sugar topping as recommended in a cookbook (I think, Gastronomique) – what did they do before blow torches I thought? Threw most of them in the bloomin’ bin is the answer in my experience. Disaster!

    • I think one would need a pretty hot grill. Mine would just melt the custard. The blowtorch is more fun too.

  • Magnifique! And I have a blowtorch.

    • Michelle, you have no excuse. Get on with it!

  • Now this is a great looking dessert, Conor. Of all your excellent photos, it’s the first one that I like best. It reminds me of all of the cremes that have been set before me in restaurants. If I see it on the menu, I can’t resist.

    • Yes John, I am that way too. I love a decent Creme Brûlée. Thanks for the kind words too.

  • Guess what I’ve ordered from my little chef tonight at home?

    Top Class, WD.

  • I am so glad to read your post while having my boring packet lunch on a crazy workday in the office. You always brightens up my day with your good sense of humour and great writing. I don’t think I can get vanilla pods over here at all. They just refuse to make their appearance in Singapore. Though I can’t taste your beautiful Creme Brûlée, at least I can imagine having it after my crappy food from the canteen….Danny

    • Thanks Danny, hopefully, you will find a supplier over there and you can enjoy this delicious, simple dessert.

  • i always get a kick out of your posts! lovely shots and its my dads fave dessert so i will just have to try.

    • Thanks Grainne,
      Make it for him. He will thank you for it.

  • looks great! but I can’t judge until I get to hear what sounds it makes when you crack the crust 🙂

    • A dull crack, deadened by the wobbly custard, of course.

  • I had no idea this could possibly be easy. Your recipe and directions are so simple. Looks fantastic. I can almost taste it….wish I could right about now.

  • I just love Crème Brûlée and yours looks fantastic!

  • Can’t imagine for one moment that yours don’t taste great. I’ve never made them but did have to use a Brûlée iron to finish off the caramel when I was an assistant chef (not only years ago but the only time I ever was a chef of sorts). That’s the only way to go with the caramel! Yet, I’ve never seen one of those irons since.

    • Never even heard of a Brûlée iron. Live and learn.

  • Just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for the Shine On Blogger award. You can see the post here: Keep it up!

  • I love creme brulee. Looks good.

    • It’s so easy to do and oh so tasty. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Brilliant. I’ve become more of a creme brûlée lover as I’ve matured. I like adulterating it with infusions too… lemongrass is a favorite.
    Photos are great. I’m going to use that last one for a post I’m doing. jk. cheers…wt

    • Thanks Wendy. You can use them any time, all you have to do is ask…

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