The Best and The Easiest Classic Crème Brûlée

After five years of blogging and a couple cookbooks, many days I feel like I’ve made every dessert there is.

But I recently asked my family, “If you could have any dessert under the sun, what would it be?”

The Best & The Easiest Classic Crème Brûlée - Finally an easy recipe for smooth, rich, creamy, restaurant-quality crème brûlée!

The reply was crème brûlée. I was not expecting that, at all. I was expecting idunno’s and notsure’s.

I said since when do you like crème brûlée, knowing his outright distaste for cheesecake, and he’s very picky about pies and custardy things. I’ve written off most of those type of recipes since I don’t need a cheesecake or a pie just for me.

He said ever since he started going out for fancy business lunches and dinners again, and that he’s become a big crème brûlée fan.

The Best & The Easiest Classic Crème Brûlée - Finally an easy recipe for smooth, rich, creamy, restaurant-quality crème brûlée!

So I knew I had to make it, but when I started to research crème brûlée recipes, talk about fussy, picky, tedious and very un-fun recipes. Why is it that the best things can often be the most fussy. Worth it, but you’ve earned it once you finally dig in.

This very do-able and classic crème brûlée is so good, so decadent, creamy, and rich, and it’s a must-make.

Key word here, classic. It was requested I don’t do anything ‘fancy’ or goofy to it, i.e. don’t be a food blogger and try to improve upon perfection by adding flavorings, liquors, zests, etc. Just classic crème brûlée, please.

The Best & The Easiest Classic Crème Brûlée - Finally an easy recipe for smooth, rich, creamy, restaurant-quality crème brûlée!

I mixed and matched so many recipes I saw and came up with something that’s a straightforward recipe everyone can make, it doesn’t require a candy thermometer, stand mixer, and it’s not overly fussy. Baking should be fun.

The recipe serves 4 to 6. I  made 6 portions and did so on purpose for portion control and to stretch the recipe, but we ended up eating all 6 portions the first day anyway. Whoops.

It’s a great party dessert because you can make it up to 3 days in advance, keep it chilled in the fridge, and right before serving, sprinkle with sugar and torch them in front of your guests. Super impressive and memorable for them, but easy for you.

The Best & The Easiest Classic Crème Brûlée - Finally an easy recipe for smooth, rich, creamy, restaurant-quality crème brûlée!

There are a couple things that will make your life easier. Ramekins and a small kitchen torch.

I used these Le Creuset 8-Ounce Round Covered Ramekins or here’s a gift set in a slightly different color. Keep your eyes open for small oven-safe ramekins at places like Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Marshall’s, or TJ Maxx for a couple bucks each. They’re handy to have around and as much as I’d love to collect Le Creuset in every size and color, it’s not exactly practical.

You can also use a larger but shallow baking dish, adjusting baking time as necessary, and although you won’t have individual portions, it’ll work.

You could try to caramelize the top sugar layer under the broiler, but it’s unreliable and you can easily burn all your precious work in seconds. I recommend a torch.

The Best & The Easiest Classic Crème Brûlée - Finally an easy recipe for smooth, rich, creamy, restaurant-quality crème brûlée!

Read the recipe over a couple times before beginning, have everything organized (mise en place) before beginning, and you’ll be rewarded with the best crème brûlée that’s ever passed your lips. And the easiest.

As you puncture the firm top layer of crystallized sugar with your spoon, it gives way to the creamiest, smoothest, richest, sweet custardy layer. It’s velvety soft and smooth, and worth every minute of cardio.

My family said this blows away all the fancy restaurant crème brûlée and has asked when I’m making it again.

The Best & The Easiest Classic Crème Brûlée - Finally an easy recipe for smooth, rich, creamy, restaurant-quality crème brûlée!

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The Best and The Easiest Classic Crème Brûlée

This restaurant-quality crème brûlée is so good, so decadent, creamy, and rich, and it's a must-make. It’s velvety soft and smooth, and worth every minute of cardio.Read the recipe over a couple times before beginning, have everything organized (mise en place) before beginning, and you’ll be rewarded with the best crème brûlée that’s ever passed your lips. And the easiest. It's a straightforward recipe that everyone can make, does not require a candy thermometer, stand mixer, and isn't doctored up with specialty flavorings - it's classic crème brûlée. I recommend a small kitchen torch to caramelize the top sugar layer because broilers can be unreliable. It's a great party dessert because you can make it up to 3 days in advance, keep it chilling, and before serving, sprinkle with sugar and torch in front of your guests. Super impressive and memorable for them, but easy for you.

Yield: serves 6 modestly, 4 generously

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: about 40 to 45 minutes

Total Time: 5+ hours, for chilling

Ingredients:

1 pint whipping or heavy cream (2 cups)
4 egg yolks from large eggs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
pinch salt, optional and to taste
about 3 to 4 cups water, for water bath
1 to 2 teaspoons superfine sugar per each ramekin, for caramelizing (granulated may be substituted but superfine melts more smoothly and evenly)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300F. Place 6 ramekins in a 9x13 pan or large baking pan that will be used for a water bath. Spray ramekins with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.
  2. Add the cream to a 2-cup glass measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high power until cream begins to bubble just a bit, but don't let it come to a full boil; it took 3 1/2 minutes in my micro (or heat cream over medium heat on the stove, about 10 minutes). Remove cream from micro; set aside to cool.
  3. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and with clean hands, pick out the yolks and put them in a large bowl. I find picking out the yolks very carefully with my fingers is the easiest way to separate whites/yolks, but separate them as you prefer. Use the whites for another recipe or discard.
  4. To the large bowl with the yolks, add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and whisk vigorously for 3 to 4 minutes until the mixture is lighter and paler in color, and has fluffed in volume. Your shoulder should be burning; use an electric mixer if you wish, or burn some calories, save dishes, and whisk by hand; set aside.
  5. With a spoon, remove any skin that's formed on the cream. It will be quite warm, but not scalding; it should read 165F max on a thermometer.
  6. Very slowly pour about 1/4 cup of cream into the eggs, whisking the whole time. This is tempering the eggs (getting them used to the warm cream) so you don't scramble them.
  7. Continue pouring the cream into the eggs very slowly, whisking the whole time.
  8. Add the vanilla, optional salt, and whisk to combine. Some recipes call for straining the mixture through a fine sieve now, but I find there's no difference so I skip straining.
  9. Evenly pour mixture into prepared ramekins; set aside.
  10. Add 2 cups water to 2-cup glass measuring cup and microwave on high power until boiling, about 4 minutes.
  11. Slowly and carefully pour the hot water into the 9x13 pan. The water creates a water bath so the crème brûlée bakes more evenly. Make sure the water isn't being poured onto or splashing into the ramekins. Top off with more very hot tap water until the water level in the pan is about as high as the level of crème brûlée inside the cups.
  12. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until set with some jiggle. Baking time will vary widely based on pan size, if you're baking 4 to 6, level of water in water batch, type of ceramic the ramekins are made of, climate and oven variances, and personal preference. Use your judgment and bake until done, noting that crème brûlée will set up more as it cools. If you open the oven and gently move the baking pan and the crème brûlée makes a wave-like motion, more than just slight jiggling, they're not done. They should not be browned, won't rise, and if testing with a thermometer it should read 150F to 155F for food safety; however I bake until about 170F because at 155F, there's still too much jiggle for my liking.
  13. Remove pan from the oven and very carefully with a hot mitt, remove ramekins from water bath and place them on a wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.
  14. Cover them with lids or plastic wrap, and transfer to fridge to chill for at least 3 hours, or up to 3 days in advance.
  15. Prior to serving, evenly sprinkle each ramekin with 1 to 2 teaspoons superfine sugar. I prefer 2 teaspoons each to achieve an appropriately thick caramelized top layer.
  16. Using a torch held about 6 inches away from the surface, heat the sugar, making sure to keep the torch moving evenly to prevent burning. When sugar is sufficiently caramelized to your liking, serve immediately. Crème brûlée that has not been sugared/torched will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

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109 Responses to “The Best and The Easiest Classic Crème Brûlée”

  1. #
    51
    Rachel @ Bakerita — May 21, 2014 at 9:29 am

    I love making creme brulee – it’s so good! But it always seems like such an effort, so I love how easy you made this. Lately my creme brulee torch has been used more as a marshmallow toaster…but I think it’ll be going back to creme brulee soon! Pinned :)

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — May 21st, 2014 at 10:09 am

      Thanks for pinning and glad you put your torch to an alternate use – fun :)

      Reply

  2. #
    52
    Valerie — May 31, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Absolutely beautiful!! I love your ramekins and I’m more than smitten with the luscious crème brûlée! wow. If I had enough ramekins (I only have two!) I’d make this right now.

    Reply

  3. #
    53
    marla — July 5, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Now how did I miss this dessert perfection! One of my all time favorite treats :)

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — July 6th, 2014 at 9:36 am

      Thanks, Marla, and I didn’t know you were a big creme brulee fan. Learn something new every day!

      Reply

  4. #
    54
    Nina — August 18, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Hi Averie! How would I adjust the baking time and oven temperature if I were to double the recipe for a 9″ x 13″ baking dish?

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — August 18th, 2014 at 10:02 pm

      I wouldn’t change the temp but not sure how long to bake because I haven’t tried it in a 9×13 pan. I worry a bit that the center would stay loose and jiggly in such large pan. I would probably do a test run of the recipe in an 8×8 pan first and see how that goes before doubling.

      Reply

      • Nina replied: — August 19th, 2014 at 9:02 am

        Will do! Thanks!

  5. #
    55
    Marlene — September 10, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    I tried this tonight and it was incredible!! Thanks for sharing such an easy recipe, and not too many yolks. It perfectly fit into my 6 (235mL) ramekins and only took around 20 minutes to bake. I won’t even dust nor torch the tops — it is THAT good — thanks again for sharing this. I used “half and half light cream” instead of whipping/heavy cream, delicious!

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — September 11th, 2014 at 3:46 am

      The fact that you didn’t even need to sugar dust & torch the tops is amazing. So glad you loved it and that half and half works, too!

      Reply

  6. #
    56
    marie — September 24, 2014 at 10:26 am

    if you prefer your creme brule warm, do you need to refrigerate it? is refrigerating necessary, or can you torch the tops after it’s cooled down and eat it that way?

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — September 24th, 2014 at 2:32 pm

      I am unsure about room temp storage for a longer duration. To be safe, I personally would store extra in the fridge and then set it out for an hour or two beforehand so it warms up.

      Reply

  7. #
    57
    Kathy — October 8, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    The tablespoon of vanilla in this recipe is clearly a mistake. I have never used a tablespoon of vanilla in any recipe, ever, and I bake all the time. It colored the egg mixture a light brown; clearly too much. Other recipes call for a teaspoon, or even a half teaspoon. The are still baking; I will see what they taste like, but am expecting an overbearing vanilla flavor!

    Reply

  8. #
    58
    Gracie — November 12, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    This recipe is by far the best creme brûlée recipe I have come across (and I have come across many) in my search for the best creme brûlée! It’s so much simpler than the other recipes that I’ve tried. No need to boil a vanilla bean, the vanilla extract makes it so much simpler! The texture is beyond perfect- it has a real creme brûlée silkiness, not a watery flan texture like many other “creme brûlée” recipes have. I HIGHLY recommend this recipe to anyone looking for a good creme brûlée! This is the first recipe that I have tried from Averie, and I will definitely try more!!

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — November 13th, 2014 at 5:39 am

      Thank you for trying this recipe and the glowing praise! First, that it’s the best, second that it’s the simplest, third that the texture is beyond perfect- it has a real creme brûlée silkiness (I agree!) and so glad you’re pleased with this. I really took my time developing this recipe (like, a few years) so I’m glad it came out great for you! If you try other recipes, please LMK!

      Reply

  9. #
    59
    Tanner — November 25, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Hello,
    This looks delicioius! I am thinking about making it for my thanksgiving dessert contest that my family does every year. However, we are required to have lemon as an ingredient… Would it completely mess up the recipe if I were to add fresh squeezed lemon juice to it? And if not, how much would you recommend? And at what stage of the cooking process? Hope to hear back soon! Thanks a bunch! xx

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — November 25th, 2014 at 7:48 pm

      I haven’t experimented with adding lemon so really cannot speak to what it will do. In many baking recipes, lemon will curdle milk and is used as a stand-in for buttermilk. I don’t know if that would happen here but it could.

      Reply

      • Tanner replied: — November 25th, 2014 at 7:58 pm

        Hmmm.. okay. Well thank you for the quick response and for your honesty! I guess I may just have to experiment :) Have a happy Thanksgiving!

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