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This restaurant-quality Crème Brûlée for two is totally decadent! Prepare it at home for a special loved one or to impress your dinner guests.
My husband Jack will tell you that anytime we go out to dinner — if there is Crème Brûlée on the menu – I always order it for dessert!
Sure, I love chocolate desserts too — but there’s something so satisfying about cracking the hardened, sugar-caramel top with the back of my spoon, then scooping out the sweet, rich, and creamy vanilla-infused custard below. (Swoon!)
Sometimes referred to as “burnt cream,” this fancy-sounding dish is quite easy to make! Just bake the custard in individual dishes in a water bath, then let the custard cool. Just before serving, sprinkle granulated sugar over the top and ‘brȗlée’ it with a butane torch or under a broiler in your oven.
Why you’ll love this Crème Brûlée for two!
- It is the perfect ending to a home-cooked Valentine’s or anniversary meal.
- All you need are a handful of simple ingredients (and a little bit of patience!)
- The custard is prepared ahead of time, so it only takes a few minutes to finish before serving.
Chef’s Tip – Prepare the Crème Brûlée custard well in advance – preferably a day before you plan on serving.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
- Heavy cream – Don’t be tempted to skim on a lighter cream or milk. You’ll need the fat content in the heavy cream to achieve the creamiest, silkiest custard.
- Vanilla bean – A real vanilla bean – split in half with the seeds scraped out – will give you the most intense vanilla flavor. You can, however, substitute a teaspoon of quality vanilla extract instead. Just be sure to add the extract after you remove the cream from the stove for the best flavor.
- Egg yolks – Pay close attention to the size of your eggs, as the difference in volume will affect the custard. If your eggs are smaller, use three yolks; if they are extra large use only two. Note that you won’t use the egg whites in this recipe – we suggest cooking them up for breakfast, or make an Angel Food cake!
- Granulated sugar – You’ll use this ingredient in both the custard (it adds sweetness and structure) as well as the hardened, caramelized crust. Don’t swap in artificial sweeteners or brown sugar – the results won’t be the same.
- Salt – Just a pinch of salt added to a dessert like Creme Brulee really enhances the sweetness and provides a subtle balance to the richness. While you can leave it out – this decadent dessert won’t taste as sweet – or as good!
Special supplies needed
Ramekins or Brûlée dishes – This recipe is written for two 6-ounce, oven-safe dishes. Crème Brûlée can be baked in smaller, taller round ramekins or in more shallow, wider dishes specifically made for Brûlée recipes.
Wide baking dish – For water bath baking, choose a dish that is wide enough to line the ramekins up side by side in a single layer.
Instant-read Thermometer – To measure the temperature of the custard base as it heats up.
Kitchen torch or butane torch used for plumbing repairs — To achieve the perfect, hard, caramelized sugar topping. If you don’t have a torch, you can use your oven broiler.
What is tempering?
Tempering is when you gradually increase the temperature of eggs in a recipe (typically a custard or sauce) so they don’t curdle or cook. In most cases, you’ll slowly drizzle a small amount of a hot liquid into the egg mixture while whisking the eggs constantly. When tempering is done correctly, the finished results should be silky and smooth, not a scrambled egg texture.
How do I make Crème Brûlée?
- Heat cream, salt, and vanilla bean (seeds and pod) in a saucepan until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F. (Stir constantly to prevent scalding along the bottom on the pan.) Once the mixture on the stove reaches temperature, remove it from the heat and discard the pod.
- Whisk egg yolks and sugar together until pale.
- Drizzle the cream mixture slowly into the eggs, whisking constantly (*see Chef’s Tip above about tempering.) until the custard is silky smooth.
- Pour the custard carefully into two oven-safe dishes. (You can discard any remaining vanilla seeds that are left over in the saucepan.)
- Set the dishes side by side in a baking pan, then slowly fill the pan with boiling water until it reaches halfway up the side of the custard dishes. Be careful not to splash it into the custard!
- Bake until the custard is soft set and creamy. Transfer the dishes to a wire rack to cool (again, being careful not to splash the water bath in the dish), then cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Sprinkle sugar over the top of the custard just before serving. Caramelize the tops with a torch or under an oven broiler – being careful not to burn the sugar.
- Allow the tops to harden, then serve with your choice of garnish!
Chef’s Tip – Note that the shape of the dish used will dictate the amount of sugar used on top, as well as how long to bake. A low, flat dish (like the ones shown in our photos ) will bake in less time than a taller ramekin, but will use more sugar.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is special about Crème Brûlée? It’s an elegant and very rich French dessert that is perfect for a special occasion! With our recipe, you can make it at home!
Can I double this recipe? Yes! We scaled down the recipe to make the perfect amount for a special, romantic dinner for two. But if you are serving a larger crowd, just up the quantities of each ingredient based on your number of servings.
What other flavors can I use in this dessert? There are plenty of options. Vanilla is traditional, but you might also see chocolate or cinnamon on a restaurant menu. Additionally, citrus flavors like lemon and orange would be delicious, as well as coffee or mocha.
This recipe originally appeared on A Family Feast in January 2017. We’ve made some minor updates to the post, but the delicious recipe remains the same.
You may enjoy these other dessert recipes:
- Vanilla Cream Cheese Custard
- Crustless Coconut Custard Pie
- Apple Custard Pie
- Vanilla Custard Sauce
- The Best Vanilla Ice Cream
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Pinch of table salt
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 3 medium egg yolks or 2 extra large egg yolks (if using large eggs, use your judgement and use 2 or 3 depending on how large they are)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 2-3 tablespoons for topping
- Fresh strawberries, for garnish (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and place a teapot full of water on to boil.
- In a small sauce pan, place cream and salt.
- Split the half vanilla bean open and scrape out the seeds into the cream then toss the scraped pod in as well.
- Stir vigorously and heat to hot (160 degrees F).
- While the cream is heating, separate yolks and place in a medium bowl with the quarter cup of sugar and beat until the mixture turns pale in color. Use the egg whites for some other recipe.
- Once the cream has reached temperature, remove from heat and remove and discard the pod.
- Very slowly drizzle into the egg mixture whipping continuously while adding.
- Pour the mixture between the two dishes. Pour slowly so the vanilla bean seeds stay in the bowl as you get to the bottom. Discard the seeds.
- Choose a pan that both dishes will fit into side by side and has sides that are least half as tall as the crème brûlée dish. Place the filled crème brûlée dishes into that pan.
- Pour the boiling hot water into the pan around the outside of the dishes until the water comes half way up the dish.
- Bake in the center of the oven. Bake shallow dishes for 20-30 minutes and for deeper dishes; 25-35 minutes.
- The finished custard will seem under baked but that is what we are going for. You do not want to cook it solid like a regular custard but be soft set and creamy. If you shake it a bit, the center should jiggle and the top should still be very light in color. Our 6 ounce shallow dishes baked exactly 25 minutes. Again, don’t gauge doneness by how regular custard bakes.
- Remove from the water bath and cool on racks to completely cool, upwards of 2-3 hours. Cover and refrigerate overnight. If you cover before they cool, condensation will build up on the plastic wrap and drip into the custard. Also, use caution that the plastic wrap does not touch any part of the top of the custard. It will stick and pull the top off.
- The day of service, sprinkle the granulated sugar over the tops of each. For the wide dish, use 1½ tablespoons of sugar each and for the narrow dish, use 1 tablespoon each.
- Use a butane torch or kitchen torch on low and heat the sugar until browned. If you don’t own a torch, use your oven broiler. This will take a minute or so, so watch closely.
- Let the caramelized top harden for a few minutes then serve.
- With the back of a spoon, tap on the top to crack the sugar and dig in. The top should be hard and the custard soft and creamy.
- We garnished ours with a fresh strawberry fan however feel free to omit and decorate with some other in-season fruit if desired.
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