Making crème brûlée at home is easier than you think.
Michael Mina’s super creamy crème brûlée base is the secret to his incredibly indulgent French Toast but it also stands alone as a simple yet decadent dessert. By using two vanilla beans in this recipe, we really showcase its delicately spicy and floral flavor. Salt balances the crème brûlée’s sweetness, egg yolks bring richness and cream makes the finished dessert silky and smooth.
- Take it slow. As you break up the vanilla beans and incorporate their flavor into the custard, blend slowly so you don’t whip too many air bubbles into the custard.
- Straining is key. The best crème brûlée is silky smooth. To get the perfect texture, straining the custard is a necessary step.
- Beat bubbles. If you can, make the custard a day ahead, pour it into the ramekins and store them in the fridge overnight. This will help prevent bubbles from forming as the custard bakes. Direct heat can also make the custard bubble, but with Michael’s effective pro-tip you can insulate your ramekins by placing a damp towel on the bottom of the pan before you bake.
- Don’t get burned. Clean any bits of custard off the rims of your ramekins before your break out the blowtorch to avoid burnt custard on the rims. And be sure to caramelize on a rack so you don’t put your cutting board or kitchen counters in the line of fire.
This tool is one we find especially helpful when making this dish:
- Ramekins. These small glazed ceramic bowls are essential for evenly baked single servings of crème brûlée. They stand up to the heat of the blowtorch as the custards are caramelized.
The list below includes all the equipment you’ll want to make this dish:
- Small saucepot
- Fine mesh strainer
- Glass bowl or 4-cup measuring glass
- Tin foil
- Plastic wrap
- 4 ramekins
- Hand torch
- Wet towel on medium baking sheet
- 2 1/3 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 vanilla beans
- 9 egg yolks (5oz yolks)
- 1 1/2 cups raw turbinado sugar (for crème brûlée)
Yield: 3 1/4 cups, 4-6 servings
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes, overnight for resting
Active Time: 30 minutes
- Add cream, milk, salt and 1/4 cup of the sugar to a saucepot. Pour the other 1/4 cup of sugar into egg yolks and whisk together. Split vanilla pods in half and using the tip of a knife, scrape the seeds into the cream mixture. Add vanilla pods into the milk as well.
- Bring to a boil over high heat and whisk while heating to mix in sugar and ensure it does not burn. Turn off heat and whisk again to ensure that all of the sugar has dissolved. Remove vanilla pods. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes to absorb as much vanilla flavor as possible.
- Place the egg yolks and sugar mixture in heat-resistant bowl. Slowly pour in cooled cream, while whisking the eggs and cream together.
- Once the egg yolks are completely incorporated, strain the mix through a fine mesh strainer over a bowl (ideally, over a 4-cup measuring glass) and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest in the refrigerator for an hour or overnight. At this point you can use the mixture for French toast or bake it in ramekins for crème brûlée.
- For crème brûlée: Preheat oven to 200ºF.
- Place ramekins on a hand towel lined large sheet pan so they are not on direct heat.
- Pour 4 ounces of the mixture into each ramekin. Wrap each ramekin with plastic wrap. Cover the entire sheet pan with foil, leaving a corner open. Place the sheet pan in the oven and then create a water bath by pouring water into the pan to 1 inch up the sides of the ramekins. Close the foil over the open corner.
- Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the custard has set.
- Remove the baking dish from the oven and carefully transfer the ramekins to a tray. Cool completely in the refrigerator, approximately 2 to 3 hours.
- After the crème brûlées are set, cover them with raw (turbinado) sugar that will form the caramelized sugar surface on the top of the custard.
- Working from the outside of the ramekins moving towards the center, sprinkle the sugar evenly in a smooth layer.
- Using a torch, melt the sugar and caramelize lightly. Stay on each spot until it turns golden brown and then move to the next section of the crème brûlée. Make sure to always caramelize the crème brûlée on a rack to prevent scorching the surface below it. Note: If you do not have a torch, you should preheat the broiler so that it becomes very hot before placing the crème brûlées in it to caramelize the sugar on top. Keep a close eye on you dessert, as it can become burnt very quickly.
Crème Brûlée with fresh berries
Instead of saving the crème brûlée base for Chef Mina’s French toast, simply bake it in ramekins, caramelize sugar on top and serve with fresh berries.