This Le Cirque Classic Crème Brûlée recipe was the first I ever made and no other version has ever surpassed it! Martha Stewart featured this Classic Crème Brûlée recipe on one of her shows nearly 20 years ago. I had never even tasted crème brûlée, but knowing Bill was a fan of custard desserts, I gave it a go.
I used my broiler to brulee the coarse sugar topping which transformed this vanilla custard into an extraordinary after dinner treat. Cracking a spoon through the hardened sugar crust into the silky smooth custard revealed the two quintessential elements which made this dessert so famous.
Le Cirque’s Legendary Classic Crème Brûlée Recipe
Since I started making this Classic Crème Brûlée at home, Bill will not order them from a restaurant menu. According to him, they always fall short. This is truly the quintessential crème brûlée recipe.
Tips for Making the Perfect Classic Crème Brûlée
Once you make this recipe, it will be a frequent flyer when it comes to dessert. Perfect for company, holidays or whenever you want to treat your family to a fabulous dessert. Here are some tips for making the perfect creme brulee.
Creme Brulee Equipment
- I finally purchased some flat oval ramekins, but the round, deeper version works fine, too. You’ll just have to add more baking time to ensure the custard is set. There will be a slight jiggle in the middle but set around the perimeter when they are fully baked.
- Creme brulee is baked in a bain marie, which is the French term for a water bath. Setting the unbaked custards into a pan of hot water to bake them helps stabilize the baking temperature, making for the creamiest results. The water should come halfway up the sides of your dishes. You do not want any water to slosh into the dishes. I use my roasting pan.
- You’ll also need a culinary torch or broiler. See below for more details.
Straining the Custard
- The custard needs to be strained before pouring it into the ramekins. Even if you very carefully and slowly add the hot cream to the eggs while constantly whisking, some small bits of egg can cook. You must strain those out so you have the most silky, creamy custard.
- Note: If you have a lot of cooked egg bits, it means you added the eggs too quickly and/or did not whisk constantly while drizzling them into the hot cream. If this happens, there will not be enough egg in your custard to allow them to solidify. You will have to start over. Don’t ask how I know this!
- PRO-Tip: I like to strain my custard into a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup with a spout. It makes it super easy to pour the mixture into your ramekins.
Caramelizing the Sugar Topping
- When it comes to caramelizing your sugar topping, you have options there as well. I use turbinado, or sugar in the raw, but you can also use brown sugar or granulated sugar. Some folks add a thin layer, torch and then repeat. Generally, I just go for it once.
- You can also use your broiler, just watch carefully and remove when the sugar topping starts bubbling. I use a mini-torch, but you can also use a larger, welding torch if you’re comfortable using one.
Serving Your Creme Brulee
- Make sure to chill your creme brulees before torching so the custard doesn’t totally liquefy from the heat. Not that anyone has ever complained when that’s happened around here!
- Though this classic creme brulee is lovely served ungarnished, for company, I’ll add a couple fresh raspberries or sliced strawberries to jazz up the presentation.
- I’ve also updated this recipe after reading Jenni Field’s post on salting desserts. She’s an accomplished pastry chef and knows her stuff; just a pinch of salt will make a world of difference to taste of the vanilla bean custard. If you have never made classsic crème brûlée before, consider it for a Valentine’s Day dessert for the one (or ones) you love.
- You can make the custards ahead of time. I like torching the sugar topping right before serving.
More Crème Brûlée Inspired Recipes You’ll Love:
- Creme Brulee Cookie Bars from Crazy for Crust
- Creme Brulee Cheesecake from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- No-churn Creme Brulee Ice Cream from Big Bear’s Wife
- Creme Brulee French Toast from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Pressure Cooker Pumpkin Creme Brulee from Pressure Cooking Today
Classic Crème Brûlée
A creamy vanilla custard topped with a crisp “burnt” sugar topping
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 50 mins
- Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
- Yield: 9 servings
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 1 vanilla bean, slit in half lengthwise and seeds scraped
- 3/4 cup sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 7 large egg yolks
- Turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw)
- Preheat oven to 300º.
- In a saucepan, heat cream, vanilla pod, vanilla seeds, sugar, and salt over medium heat, stirring occasionally, till bubbles form around perimeter. Do not bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
- Whisk eggs in large glass measuring cup (or bowl). Temper yolks by adding a small amount of hot cream to the yolks while whisking. Repeat a few more times, making sure to add the cream mixture very slowly and to keep whisking so yolks do not cook. Pour tempered yolks back into pan and whisk till smooth. Strain the mixture into large measuring cup (you may reuse the cup utilized for tempering) to remove vanilla pod, seeds and any bits of cooked yolk.
- Place nine 8 ounce ramekins in roasting pan. Fill the ramekins to the top with custard. Carefully place pan in the oven, and pour enough hot water in roasting pan to come halfway up ramekins. Bake until custard is set and jiggles slightly when shaken, about 50 minutes.
- Remove from water bath and let cool a half hour or so. Chill for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days. Before serving, sprinkle with turbinado sugar and broil (approximately 4 inches from element) till sugar caramelizes….watch carefully as this takes less than a minute. You may also use a kitchen torch to caramelize. Place on small plate to serve.
- I used shallow ramekins and baked for about 40 minutes.