Do any of you remember that High School Musical scene where a basketball player comes out as a baker and tells his friends that he makes crème brûlée? Yeah, that was the moment I was introduced to this dessert.
High School Musical aside, crème brûlée is actually one of my favorite desserts. It’s got the right amount of sweetness, it’s creamy, crunchy, and overall, has a beautiful play of textures. And it’s one of the things that I kept putting off from making because, for some reason, I thought it was going to be super complex (spoiler alert: it’s not).
I tackled a couple of things that I’d been putting off baking for a while. One of them was crème brûlée. The other was a pavlova, interestingly made with the same egg. You can check out the pavlova I made on my Instagram, the recipe is from Preppy Kitchen.
But, this post is not about pavlova; it’s about crème brûlée. Specifically, crème brûlée for two. Because it’s Valentine’s weekend, and you can make two crème brûlées to share with your boo, or just eat both by yourself as I did!
Crème brûlée is very simple to make. There are very few ingredients and a few techniques that you need to attentively make. And you’ve got yourself a fancy and delectable dessert right in time for Valentine’s Day.
What goes into crème brûlée?
Crème brûlée is essentially a creamy custard, usually flavored with vanilla, and it’s got a brûléed/caramelized top. It’s a French dessert if you couldn’t tell, and it’s typically served in a ramekin. A ramekin is a small ceramic pot that’s mostly used for either crème brûlée or soufflé.
The custard is like a standard vanilla custard/pastry cream. It’s got three main ingredients and two more for flavoring. For the custard, you need heavy cream, granulated sugar, and egg yolk. For the flavoring, I used vanilla extract and a bit of salt to cut through the sweetness.
The custard is made by combining warm cream with the egg yolk and sugar, and when that’s cooked in the oven, the egg thickens the mixture giving you custard. It’s a simple technique, and all it needs is your attention.
You can also cook the custard on the stovetop and then transfer it to the ramekins if you don’t have an oven.
Now comes the most crucial part, the brûléed or caramelized top that breaks apart at the tap of a spoon. Traditionally, it’s created by adding a bit of sugar over the cooled custard. Then a blowtorch is used to caramelize the sugar.
Not everyone has a blowtorch. An easy alternative to this is making a simple caramel on the stovetop and then pouring it onto the cooled custard. So, basically, you’re caramelizing the sugar in a pan on the stove instead of with a blowtorch.
What equipment do I need to make crème brûlée?
You will need a small saucepan, a small mixing bowl, a wire whisk, and a rubber spatula to make the custard.
The crème brûlée is served in a ramekin, so you will need two of those as well. Mine are 4.5 cm deep with an 8 cm diameter.
You will also need a larger baking dish because the ramekins will sit in a water bath while baking.
And lastly, you’ll need another frying pan, or you can clean the saucepan and reuse it to make the caramel topping.
Crème Brûlée For Two
Yields: 2 crème brûlées
Time: 1 hour plus chilling
18 grams egg yolk (1 no.)
30 grams (2 ½ tablespoons) granulated sugar
144 grams (½ cup) heavy cream
2 grams (½ teaspoon) salt
4 grams (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
35 grams (2 ¾ tablespoons) granulated sugar (for the topping)
Preheat the oven to 160°C.
Add your cream to a saucepan on medium-low heat, and let it come to a simmer.
In a mixing bowl, vigorously whisk the egg yolk and sugar until it’s a pale yellow color and foamy.
Meanwhile, also bring about 2 cups of water to a boil in a kettle or a pot.
Add the salt and vanilla extract to the cream and mix to combine.
Add ¼ cup of the warm cream to the egg mixture to temper it.
Whisk the two together until combined, and then gradually add the rest of the cream in phases while continually whisking.
Process for making the créme brûlée in the oven:
Once you have a cohesive mixture, divide it into two oven-safe ramekins.
Place the ramekins in a larger baking dish and add the boiling water up to ½ an inch of the ramekins.
Carefully place the baking dish in the oven and bake the custard ramekins at 160°C for 25-30 minutes.
Check around the 28-minute mark; the custard should be set on the sides and jiggly in the center.
Remove the ramekins from the baking dish and allow them to cool on a cooling rack for 1 hour at room temperature.
After one hour, place them in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or overnight.
Process for making the créme brûlée on the stovetop:
Pour the custard mixture back into the saucepan and place it on medium-low heat.
Continuously stir it with a whisk, reach the corners and crevices of the pan as well.
Continue stirring until you have a thick and goopy mixture. It should take about a minute or two.
Pour the custard into two ramekins and let them cool down for 30 minutes at room temperature.
Refrigerate the ramekins for at least an hour or overnight.
Bring the ramekins out and make the topping.
Add the sugar to a frying pan or a saucepan and place it on medium-low heat.
Allow it to heat up; it’ll start melting at various spots, and then move it around with a rubber spatula.
Once you attain an amber-colored caramel, turn off the heat.
Carefully pour a bit of the caramel over both the custard ramekins.
Distribute the caramel in an even layer by rotating the ramekins quickly before the caramel hardens.
Put the ramekins back in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes.
Crack the set caramel top with a spoon and dig in.
If you want to make the crème brûlées ahead of time, make the custard and refrigerate according to the recipe. Make the topping 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve and allow it to set.
There is, unfortunately, no eggless alternative to crème brûlée, at least, not that I know of. The crème brûlée doesn’t taste like eggs at all, so if you’re comfortable baking with eggs, you can totally make it.