This Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée is one of my mom’s all-time favorite desserts. And with Mother’s Day approaching I thought this would be the perfect time to share! The custard base is thick, creamy, and slightly sweet. It’s topped with a thick layer of crunchy caramelized sugar that snaps as you tap your spoon into it. It’s super simple to make and your guests will be in awe as you torch the sugar right before their eyes!
You are only 5 ingredients away from this delicious and decadent dessert!
- Egg Yolks: Egg whites aren’t needed in this recipe. Save them in the fridge for a batch of macarons or meringues.
- Sugar: This will sweeten the custard and you’ll also sprinkle a couple of teaspoons on top of each ramekin to create the signature caramelized shell.
- Heavy Cream: Along with the egg yolks, heavy cream is what makes the custard rich and creamy.
- Vanilla Extract: Since there are so few ingredients, I recommend using a high-quality pure vanilla extract and not imitation vanilla. You’ll be able to taste the difference!
- Vanilla Bean Paste: I love using vanilla bean paste so you can see the vanilla specks in the custard. You can also use a whole vanilla bean instead of the paste. Just split the bean and let it steep with the heavy cream. If you don’t have either of those, you can substitute an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract instead.
How to Make Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée
- Temper the eggs. First, you whisk together the eggs and sugar then heat the heavy cream. You’ll slowly stream the hot cream into the egg mixture while whisking. This process, called “tempering”, ensures that the eggs don’t get cooked from the heat of the cream. If you add the hot cream too fast, you’ll end up with scrambled eggs.
- Strain the mixture. After tempering the egg and sugar mixture with the cream, you’ll add in the vanilla extract and paste then strain the mixture with a sieve. This is helpful just in case any of the egg yolks may have gotten cooked in the tempering process, this will strain those bits out and ensure the custard is nice and smooth.
- Bake the ramekins in a water bath. Custards like Crème Brûlée are baked in a water bath (also known as a “bain-marie”) so that they bake evenly and to prevent the mixture from curdling. I like to put my baking dish with the filled ramekins on the oven rack first, then carefully pour the water in with a pitcher. This is helpful to avoid any water spilling or getting into the custards while trying to transfer to the oven.
- Refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Traditionally Crème Brûlée is served cold with only the caramelized top being slightly warm. My favorite part is the contrast between the cold, thick, and creamy custard and the warm, crunchy caramelized top. You can even make the custard a day ahead, refrigerate overnight then torch the sugar whenever you’re ready for dessert the next day!
- Use a torch to caramelize the sugar. A kitchen torch is the best way to get a perfectly caramelized top. If you don’t have a torch, another method that works is cooking a sugar syrup and pouring it on top of the custard. Cook some sugar with a little water in a saucepan until it caramelizes and turns a golden amber color, then pour onto the cold custard and swirl to distribute evenly. It will harden and be very similar to the torched sugar. Some recipes mention using an oven on the broil setting to caramelize the sugar but I’ve found that it just doesn’t work very well and you end up with a warm custard as well.
Tips For Torching Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée
- Torch right before serving. Pull the cold custards from the fridge, add an even layer of sugar, and torch right before serving. The custard should be cold but shouldn’t be refrigerated after torching because the sugar will melt and the signature hardened crust on top will disappear.
- Hold the torch a few inches from the sugar. You don’t want the flame too close to the sugar or it will easily burn. If your torch has a setting to adjust the size of the flame, I like to have mine in a medium-high position. The larger the flame, the further away you’ll want to hold the torch though.
- Constantly move the torch. If you hold the torch in one spot too long, it will burn or caramelize the top unevenly. I like to make small circular motions around the sugar for the best caramelized coverage. While torching the top may seem intimidating, you’ll get better each time you do it.
More Decadent Desserts
This is overall a simple yet impressive dessert. I hope you’ll give it a try for yourself. Happy Crème Brûlée making!
Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée
- 5 large egg yolks
- ⅓ cup (74g) granulated sugar, plus more for the caramelized top
- 1¼ cups (298g) heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until thick and light in color, about 2 minutes.
- Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan over low heat until it comes to a simmer. Remove from heat then gradually, in a slow stream, pour the cream into the egg mixture, whisking continuously. Mix in the vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve.
- Place 4 oven-safe ramekins in a baking dish or roasting pan and divide the creme brulee mixture among the ramekins.
- Carefully pour warm water into the baking dish around the outside of the ramekins until it fills between halfway and two-thirds up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the creme brulee is set but still jiggly when shaken.
- Allow the ramekins to cool before removing them from the water, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
- Sprinkle a layer of granulated sugar on the tops of each ramekin, covering the entire top of the custard, and caramelize using a kitchen torch. Cool for a few minutes to allow the sugar to harden. Serve immediately and enjoy!
- Torching: See the post above for tips on successfully torching your Crème Brûlée.