Classic Vanilla Crème Brûlée

Yield: 6 individual crème brûlée
Recipe: 74/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 190


    A couple of weeks back I made what turned out to be delicious lemon possets, which I brought to work and let my coworkers devour. I think my boss particularly liked them, because a few days later he gave me some crème brûlée ramekins that he had bought me, in a subtle hint to let me know that it would be a good idea for my next dessert, I think. Having never really tasted crème brûlée and evidently having never made them, I was excited for this new challenge.

    I made them the week later and was pleasantly surprised. I always thought that it was an art form and quite difficult to make this sophisticated dessert, but it wasn’t. No doubt I could have demonstrated better skill when opening the fresh vanilla bean, but it was very fun and relatively rapid to do nonetheless. The delicious scent released by the vanilla beans and pod simmering in the cream was simply wonderful. I particularly enjoyed using my new kitchen torch to make the brûlée part of the crème brûlée. In retrospect, I should have put finer layers of sugar when caramelizing the sugar. I did two layers as suggested by Anna, but the surface was not as hard as I would have like. Nevertheless, this dessert was simply scrumptious and very satisfying!


  • 2 ½ cups whipping cream
  • 1 vanilla bean (or 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste)
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for torching


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place six 6-ounce ramekins into a baking dish that is at least as height as the ramekins. Boil some water for later use.
  2. Heat 2 cups of the cream with the scraped vanilla seeds and the vanilla bean to just below a simmer.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and remaining ½ cup of the cream.
  4. Slowly whisk the hot cream into the yolk mixture until blended. Divide this evenly between the ramekins and remove any air bubble present at the surface by using a paper towel to pop them. We want the surface of the custards to be silky smooth.
  5. Pour boiling water around the ramekins to about halfway up the sides and bake for about 25 minutes, until the outside of the custards are set but the centre is still a little bit jiggly. Cool the custards for 15 minutes in the water bath, then remove them to cool to room temperature before chilling in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
  6. To serve the crème brûlées, sprinkle the tops of each custard with a thin layer of sugar, then carefully melt and caramelize the sugar using a kitchen torch. Add a second thin layer of sugar and repeat the process. This ensures a crunchy and hard top.

Notes from Anna:

  • To scrape the seeds from a vanilla beans, first run a very sharp knife down the length of the bean to open it. Use the dull side of the knife and run it along the inside of the bean to remove the seeds. They will stick to your knife and be easily transferred to your cream to infuse the flavour.