In this baking tips post, I will teach you 10 Tips for Making Perfect Crème Brûlée. Learn easy tricks to make this delicious and elegant dessert absolute perfection!
What is Crème Brûlée?
Crème Brûlée is one of my most favorite desserts! A creamy custard topped with a layer of crunchy caramelized sugar.
Basic Vanilla Crème Brûlée only has 4 ingredients: heavy cream, granulated sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla. It is often said that the simplest dishes can be the easiest to screw up. But, I have compiled a list of tips and tricks to making crème brûlée simple to make and perfect every time!
1. Use high quality ingredients
There are only a few ingredients in crème brûlée, so when selecting ingredients, it is best to opt for high quality ingredients, especially when it comes to flavoring.
I recommend using a pure vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste, or real vanilla bean when making vanilla crème brûlée. If you are making a flavor with spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg, fresh is best! Or if you are making a chocolate crème brûlée, opt for high-quality chocolate!
2. Whip egg yolks and granulated sugar
To make crème brûlée, egg yolks are whipped with granulated sugar. Use a whisk to whip air into the egg yolks and sugar. The egg yolks will become pale, fluffy, and thicken. This process may take a few minutes to achieve this texture.
This process helps dissolve the sugar and create a thick, silky texture to the custard.
3. Scald cream
To make the crème brûlée, you must ‘scald’ the heavy cream. Scalding is heating the cream to the point just before it starts to boil.
Pour the heavy cream into a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Once you start seeing small bubbles along the edges of the saucepan, the cream is ready for the next step. You may notice there appears to be a thin film on the top of the cream. This is normal. Simply mix the cream before adding it to the egg yolks.
4. Temper egg yolks
After your egg yolks are whipped and the cream is scalded, it is time to combine the two to make the custard.
To prevent the egg yolks from turning into scrambled eggs, you must temper the eggs with the hot cream. Tempering means adding very small amounts of hot liquid to the egg yolks, mixing constantly, so that the temperature of the yolks slowly increases. This will prevent the egg yolks from seizing up and turning into scrambled eggs.
I recommend using a ladle to slowly drizzle in the hot cream with one hand and whisking the egg yolks constantly with the other hand. Once you have added a couple ladles of the hot cream, you can slowly drizzle the hot cream into the egg yolks straight out of the saucepan.
5. Remove air bubbles
After whisking the custard mixture, you will notice that a layer of air bubbles rises to the top of the custard. There is no harm in these bubbles being present, but to make perfect crème brûlée, I recommend removing the bubbles to get a smooth top on the custard.
To remove the air bubbles, simply take a spoons and slowly mix the custard which will eliminate the bubbles. You can also use a spoon to gently skim the bubbles off the top as well.
6. Even custard in ramekins
To ensure the custards bake evenly, you will want to ensure that the ramekins are filled with the same amount of custard. There are several ways to do this.
7. Bake in the center of the oven
Another great tip for even baking is to bake the custards in the center of the oven. This allows for even heating from the top and bottom of the oven.
If the ramekins are too close to the top of the oven, the tops will brown and caramelize and the bottoms may not bake properly. The opposite is true if the custards are too close to the bottom of the oven.
Prior to turning on the oven, be sure that your oven rack is positioned in the center.
8. Bake in a water bath
This is a key step to making perfect crème brûlée – baking your custards in a water bath.
A water bath is a pan of water that the ramekins are placed in to bake. A water bath provides some insulation from direct heat which allows the custards to cook gently, evenly, and prevents cracking.
To make things easy on yourself, I suggest following this process for your water bath.
- Place the ramekins in a larger pan that is at least 2 to 3 inches deep.
- Fill the ramekins with the custard mixture.
- Open the oven, pull out the rack, and place the larger pan on the rack.
- Use a liquid measuring cup to carefully pour water into the larger pan. Be careful not to pour water into the ramekins filled with custard.
- Very slowly and carefully, push the oven rack into the oven.
9. Cool to room temperature and chill completely
After the custards are done baking, remove the large pan from the oven and place on a wire cooling rack. Cool the custards in the water bath for about 30 minutes. Carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath and continue to cool for an additional 30 minutes.
Once the custards are cooled to room temperature, chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but ideally overnight. You can place the ramekins in an airtight container, or use a bit of plastic wrap or aluminum foil to cover the tops to prevent them from drying out.
10. Do not burn the caramelized sugar
To create the classic caramelized sugar top on the crème brûlée, sprinkle granulated sugar on the top and use a kitchen torch to gently melt the sugar.
When using the kitchen torch, be sure to keep moving the flame in small circles. If you hold the flame in one spot for too long, the sugar can burn, which will give your caramelized top a bitter, burnt taste.
You are aiming for a nice, golden brown color, so keep the flame moving constantly and quickly.