Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (2024)

By:Nagi

174 Comments

Here is a classic Crème Brûlée with a silky, smooth and rich custard topped with a thin pane of crunchy toffee. This is French chic personified in a dessert – classy but not stuffy, and oh-so-effortless! It takes just 4 simple ingredients: cream, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla. It’s an excellent make-ahead dessert for an elegant dinner party, yet easy enough to whip up for dinner tonight.

And no, you don’t even need a blow torch to make the toffee topping!

Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (1)

Crème Brûlée

I will never forget the first time I made Crème Brûlée becauseI was floored by how easy it was.I think I just assumed that something that looks and tastes so incredible, and appears on the menus of great restaurants wouldbe really hard to make!

I think you too will be so surprised how easy Crème Brûlée is! No fancy gadgets needed (I’ll get to the toffee topping later :-)) and just 4simple steps:

  1. Infuse cream with vanilla (10 minute simmer, and stand for 1 hour);

  2. Whisk egg yolks and sugar, then cream;

  3. Pour into ramekins, bake, then chill;

  4. Sprinkle with sugar and finally blast with blowtorch or stick it under a screaming hot grill to form the toffee topping.

“Wait, that’s it??”, I hear you exclaim incredulously. Yep. You barely need a recipe! 😂

(PS. How to pronounce Crème Brûlée: krembroo-lay. Bonus points if you can do the guttural French accent. I can’t – I can only say it with an awful Aussie drawl!)

Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (2)

What goes in Crème Brûlée

Here’s all you need to make Crème Brûlée:

Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (3)
  • Cream – Heavy / thickened or pure cream works just fine here. If you opt for low-fat cream, you will miss the rich mouthfeel but the recipe does still work;

  • Vanilla bean – While real vanilla beans will give the best and purest vanilla flavour, you can use vanilla bean paste instead. Vanilla bean paste still has the little black vanilla seeds in it, so it will look the same but the vanilla flavour is not quite as pure. Vanilla extract also works, though it’s another step down from the “real thing”, albeit an excellent economical option. I personally wouldn’t recommend making Crème Brûlée using imitation vanilla essence. It kind of defeats the purpose …

  • Sugar – Some for mixing into the custard, and a bit for sprinkling on the surface to make the paper-thin, shatteringly crispy topping!

  • Egg yolks – This gives Crème Brûlée its velvety mouthfeel as well as making the custard set.

    Leftover egg whitesHere’s my listof what I do with them and all my egg white recipes can be foundin this recipe collection.

How to make Crème Brûlée

A chic French baked custard dessert everybody knows and loves … yet it’s a walk in the park to make!

Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (4)
  1. Scrape vanilla bean – To scrape the vanilla bean “caviar” (seeds) out, cut an incision down the length of the vanilla bean. Then use the back of a small knife held perpendicular against the vanilla bean and scrape it along the inside to scrape out the vanilla bean seeds. See demo in the recipe video below;

  2. Infuse cream – Place vanilla seeds, empty vanilla bean pod and cream in a saucepan, and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Then leave to stand for 1 hour so the cream is infused with the vanilla flavour and cools (so it doesn’t cook the egg when we add it). I tend to do this with the lid off because I don’t like condensation dripping into my cream from the lid if you cover it. (I always think, “It’s diluting the cream!”, which actually makes absolutely no sense 😂.)

    It does mean removing the skin that forms on the surface before mixing into the egg;

  3. Make egg mixture – Whisk egg yolks with the sugar;

  4. Add cream – Remove the vanilla bean from the cream (and have a giggle when you see what I use to remove it in the recipe video!) Use a slotted spoon or similar to remove any skin from the surface of the cream to ensure our custard is silky smooth;

  5. Make custard – Pour the cream into the egg mixture then whisk until just combined. Don’t whisk more than necessary as this creates air bubbles. Though let’s be honest, it’s really not the end of the world if you have an air bubble or two in your custard! I’m just being a perfectionist here :-);

  6. Fill ramekins – This recipe makes 500ml / 2 cups of custard, so that’s four servings of 125ml / ½ cup each. Small ramekins holding around 150ml / ⅔ cup are an ideal size – this is what I used.

    Restaurants often serve Crème Brûlée in a flatter, larger dish so there’s more surface area and thus more toffee action. I applaud this clever move – we all love that toffee top, it’s the best part! – but regretfully I do not have such a dish;

  7. Water bath – Place ramekins in a deep(-ish) roasting pan, then fill the pan with boiling water so it comes halfway up the side of the ramekins. Don’t go any higher than this otherwise the ramekins will float around in the water!

  8. Bake 35 – 40 minutes or until the custard looks and feels set but still wobbles when you (gently!) shake the ramekin.

How set Crème Brûlée should be

Crème Brûlée is supposed to be a soft custard with a texture like a thick Greek yogurt. You should not be able to cut through it like cake! When you scoop some from the ramekin, the walls of the custard remaining in the ramekin should barely be holding upright, but shouldn’t run everywhere either. It should melt in your mouth like a rich, velvety cream. It shouldn’t even have the texture of soft jelly!

How to make the crisp toffee topping of Crème Brûlée

A blow torch makes short work of the crisp toffee topping. Just sprinkle with sugar and blast with the blow torch for around 6 to 10 seconds until the sugar melts and turns golden. It will then quickly harden as it cools.

However, if you don’t have a blow torch, just stick the ramekins under a screaming hot grill / broiler for around 45 seconds to 1 minute so the sugar melts.It works just fine, though my two little tips are: (1) the brûlée should be refrigerated overnight to ensure it is really cold to help prevent the custard from melting; and (2)after the sugar is melted, pop the Crème Brûlées back in the fridge forat least 20minutes, and up to 1 hour. This isbecause the grill takes longer than a blow torch so the surface of the custard under the caramel will melt a little bit.

Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (5)
Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (6)

That moment when you crack through the caramel topping and are greeted with the sight of silky smooth custard … *faint* . Heaven in a ramekin!

Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (7)
Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (8)

What to serve with Crème Brûlée

As for what to serve Crème Brûlée with? So many options! It makes a very elegant ending to any dinner, but of course the obvious option is to round out a French menu with this impressive dessert. Here are some French menu ideas:

Béarnaise Sauce – world’s finest steak sauce
Beef Bourguignon (Beef Burgundy)
Killer Lemon Butter Sauce for Fish
Coq au Vin
French Onion Soup
French Bistro Salad
French
  • Steak or salmon with Béarnaise Sauce – a suitably upmarket main dish!

  • Hearty stews – Beef Bourguignon, Coq au Vin or down-home French country cooking with a Chicken in White Wine Sauce;

  • French Onion Soup – An excellent starter option though certainly suited as a main as well;

  • Fish with Lemon Beurre Noisette – Fish with a brown butter and lemon sauce (outrageously good);

  • Nicoise Salad – This Provencal tuna salad would make for a great lighter main course for a balmy summer’s day; and

  • Side salad suggestions – Try a classic French Bistro Salad, a (better!😉) French Carrot Salad or a Southern French-inspired Tomato Salad with Olive Tapenade. Or make your own with a French Vinaigrette.

Head here for even more French food ideas! → French recipe collection

Bon appétit! – Nagi x

Watch how to make it

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Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (16)

Crème Brûlée (French Vanilla Custard)

Author: Nagi

Prep: 10 minutes mins

Cook: 40 minutes mins

Total: 50 minutes mins

Dessert

French

5 from 33 votes

Servings4

Tap or hover to scale

Print

Recipe video above. A classic French Crème Brûlée with a silky smooth rich custard and crunchy caramel top. It's a stunner – and so easy!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pure cream (Aus) / heavy cream (US) (Note 1)
  • 1 vanilla pod OR 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (Note 2)
  • 5 egg yolks (Note 3 for using leftover whites)
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar (superfine sugar)

Toffee Topping

  • 2 tsp caster sugar (superfine sugar)

Instructions

  • Vanilla bean: Split vanilla pod down the middle and scrape the seeds out using a small knife. Place into saucepan with cream and the empty vanilla pod.

  • Infuse cream: Simmer uncovered over low heat for 10 minutes. Remove from stove and set aside to infuse for 1 hour with lid on (you can skip this step if using paste, just let it cool to lukewarm). Remove vanilla pod. Skim off any skin that has formed on the surface.

  • Preparation: Preheat oven to 130°C/265°F (120°C fan). Place 4 x ⅔ cup / 150 ml empty ramekins in a baking pan with high enough sides that enough water can be poured in to come halfway up ramekins.

  • Boil water: Boil a kettle of water.

  • Whisk egg yolks and sugar: Whisk yolks and sugar until just well combined. Don't whisk too much, as this can create bubbles.

  • Add cream: Pour cream into eggs and gently stir to combine. Divide mixture between ramekins with a soup ladle.

  • Water bath: Pour in enough boiling water so it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. (If you have too much water, ramekins will float around – not good!)

  • Bake: Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until the custard is set but there is still a slight wobble when you GENTLY give the ramekin a little shake.

  • Chill: Remove ramekins from water. Leave to cool, then refrigerate for at least 6 hours and preferably overnight (up to 3 days is OK).

Toffee Topping

  • Blow torch method: Sprinkle 1/2 tsp sugar over the surface of each crème brûlée. Use a blow torch to melt and caramelise the sugar. Serve immediately.

  • Grill / broiler method: Crème brûlée should be first refrigerated overnight. Preheat grill to high. Place crème brûlée under grill for 1 minute or until sugar is melted and caramelised. Refrigerate afterwards for at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour (to reset custard immediately under toffee), then serve.

  • Crème brûlée perfect texture:The texture should be like a very thick yogurt, rather than set so it is sliceable like cake or even like a soft set jelly. When you take a scoop, the custard should barely hold together, but shouldn't be melting or running. When you take a bite the custard should literally just melt in your mouth.

Recipe Notes:

1. Cream:

  • Australia: This recipe calls for pure cream. Thickened cream also works, but pure cream will give a cleaner, more refined mouthfeel (in my opinion). Light cream does work too but it lacks the richness;
  • US: Use heavy cream.

2. Vanilla – It’s most authentic to use a vanilla pod but you could use vanilla bean paste. You really want those little black vanilla seeds visible for the true experience!!

3.Leftover egg whites–Here’s my listof what I do with them and all my egg white recipes can be foundin this recipe collection.

4. Recipe source – Adapted in part from the Creme Brûlée recipe from Manu Fiedel’s French Kitchen cookbook.

5. Nutrition – Never mind the nutrition. This is worth it! 🙂

Nutrition Information:

Serving: 173gCalories: 599cal (30%)Carbohydrates: 29.3g (10%)Protein: 6g (12%)Fat: 52.6g (81%)Saturated Fat: 31.2g (195%)Cholesterol: 436mg (145%)Sodium: 58mg (3%)Potassium: 118mg (3%)Sugar: 25.3g (28%)Vitamin A: 2150IU (43%)Vitamin C: 0.8mg (1%)Calcium: 110mg (11%)Iron: 0.5mg (3%)

Keywords: creme brulee, french custard, french dessert, vanilla custard

Did you make this recipe?I love hearing how you went with my recipes! Tag me on Instagram at @recipe_tin.

Originally published in September 2016. Updated with brand new photos and long overdue recipe tutorial video! No change to recipe – it’s perfect as is!

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174 Comments

  1. Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (21)Helen says

    Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (22)
    Tried your crème brûlée recipe for the first time for a dinner party. Wow! So easy and fab. I now have the confidence to fiddle with variations. Star anise infusion and cook over a rhubarb compote. Finger crossed. Love what you do Nagi. A huge fan!

    Reply

  2. Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (23)Rachel says

    Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (24)
    This is my third time making this and it’s absolutely delicious 😋 I never thought it would be this easy to make a dish perceived as so “fancy”
    Thank you so much, Nagi, for sharing your simple yet mouthwatering recipes! ♥️

    Reply

  3. Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (25)Monica says

    Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (26)
    I made these last night, and they were absolutely gorgeous. I’ve always wanted to make crème brûlée and was unsuccessful till now. Thanks Nancy – as always you’re the best. 😊

    Reply

    • Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (27)Monica Noreen Kelliher says

      Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (28)
      Oops typo and friend called Nancy,
      Third time making them now. Delicious!
      Thanks, Nagi.

      Reply

  4. Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (29)Linda says

    Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (30)
    My twist was infusing the cream with Earl Grey teabags! It’s a crowd pleaser and certainly delicious. Thanks, Nagi!

    Reply

  5. Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (31)Lyn says

    Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (32)
    Thanks Nagi! Another delicious and easy recipe. I used bantam eggs, 7 yolks instead of 5 worked for me. 😋

    Reply

  6. Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (33)Liz says

    Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (34)
    Made these yesterday then left in the fridge overnight and served for dessert tonight. Absolutely delicious and so simple to make! Love your recipes Nagi. Hubby loves them too – restaurant quality meals he says.

    Reply

  7. Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (35)Linda says

    Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (36)
    My “go to” dinner party dessert. I love the way I can cook for any number – fabulous!

    Reply

  8. Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (37)Julie says

    I’m wondering what exact size of ramekin to use…..I see you note 2/3 cup but when shopping for them they seem to be classified in ounces or inches.

    Reply

  9. Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (38)Donna Blyth says

    Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (39)
    I made this, for the third time, for a dinner party last night. It was fun to let my guests create their own toppings by adding and torching the sugar themselves. ☺️🥮

    Reply

    • Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (40)Donna Blyth says

      Oh, and of course it tasted amazing as well! Still have to pinch myself that I can make crème brûlée better than some restaurants. 😆

      Reply

  10. Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (41)Julie Reed says

    Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (42)
    I have always loved Creme Brulee but throught it was beyond my skills. OMG it is sooo easy and my first time for a dinner party was a big hit! Bought a gas torch at Myer for $20 and love it! Going to try more recipes I thought were beyond my range or just too complicated! Thanks Nagi

    Reply

  11. Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (43)Lynn Stevens says

    Dear Nagi
    Firstly I want to say that I love your recipes and they always work and are delicious. The crème brûlée however did not set in the middle, it was runny. I followed the recipe exactly, baked at 130 deg C for 40mins and refrigerated overnight. Any tips?

    Reply

  12. Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (44)Suzie says

    Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (45)
    I have never made Crème Brûlèe before, and this was so simple our 10 and 11 year olds did most of the work!
    I used the recipe for 12, but divided it among 10 of the terracotta pots that the Chris’s Dips come in and it filled them nicely. I did have to leave them in the oven considerably longer, and the time actually varied on how many were in the pan as well as the location in the pan. One pan had 6 pots, it took 1 hour for the first 4, then another 20 minutes for the the 2 that were in the middle. The second pan had 4 pots, it took 1 hour 20. Anyway, the result was delicious and well received. Thank you!

    Reply

  13. Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (46)Tracy says

    Hi Nagi. I tried this recipe and it didn’t work 😟 not sure why. Any advice? Custard was too runny under the nice thick top.

    Reply

  14. Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (47)Dianne says

    Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (48)
    This is so simple and so delicious. I served this with fresh raspberries. Thank you for your awesome recipes👏👏🌟🌟

    Reply

  15. Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (49)Amel says

    Hi Nagi, would this recipe work for a large “pie-style” creme brûlée, instead of single servings? Thinking of making this instead of a birthday cake for my hubby – it’s his favourite dessert!

    Reply

  16. Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (50)Nadia says

    Hi nagi, LOVE all your recipes and cannot wait for your cookbook. I wanted to let you know of a potential error- for the toffee topping it says 2tsp of caster sugar, but when switched to metric that changes to 40g?

    Reply

  17. Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (51)Sharon says

    Question, most recipes call for the cream to be warm, carefully adding eggs into the hot cream so you don’t scramble them. Room temperature obviously works well, any issues with it not being cooked enough?

    Reply

    • Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (52)Donna Blyth says

      Hi Sharon, I’ve not had that problem. In fact I did once overcook these using this recipe. It still tasted amazing but was just thicker. With hot cream you do run more of a risk of scrambling so I prefer this method.

      Reply

  18. Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (53)Lori Graham says

    Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (54)
    My family LOVES crème brûlée! I always thought it was so difficult to make. Your recipe proved me wrong and my family LOVED it! Your recipe was very easy to follow and the results were absolutely delicious. Thank you for all the wonderful recipes! I also made the “Stuffed Jacket Potatoes” and they were also a hit. BTW, I have a 5-year old Golden Retriever named Phoebe. I love Dozer! Thank you, Nagi!

    Reply

  19. Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (57)Hoa says

    Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (58)
    Hi Nagi, despite me not doubling the vanilla bean paste when I doubled the recipe, it was still so delicious!! This recipe is a keeper! Thank you so much! ☺️

    Reply

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Crème Brûlée (French vanilla custard) (2024)

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