Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Classic French Crème Brulée - The Topic


Recommended Posts

Theres also such a thing as making creme brulee stove top. Basicly it's similar to making a pastry cream. I'm a fairly recent convert and don't see myself returning to the slower oven baking method. I use white sugar to finish and do as Neil mentioned I turn my dish to spread an even layer of sugar over the custard before torching, twice.

I've never used dried br. sugar (timing and space issues) and this reminds me to test it out and see which I prefer. It's also hard at first to get an even coat where there aren't any darker almost 'burnt' spots, it takes patience and pratice to learn how to get an even coat. You can also make caramel in a pot and pour a THIN layer over your custard if you don't have a blow torch.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

By the way, the classic Creme Brulee doesnt employ the use of a blowtorch and such a thick burnt layer that has to be "cracked". Old school creme brulee just has the thinnest of burnt sugar layers, and it doesnt necessarily cover the entire surface of the custard -- it is more of an accent. Our local patissier in NJ, Patisserie St. Michel, uses a hot iron to burn the top sugar layer onto the custard rather than the blowtorch, and produces the following result:


as you can see the burned layer is in spots, and is essentially an accent flavor rather than the main feature.

He also makes a really awesome pistachio creme brulee by mixing finely ground pistachios into the custard before baking:


I really like this guy's creme brulee because the custard is baked into pastry shells (that have been blind baked), rather than in ramekins, so you can eat the whole thing.

Jason Perlow, Co-Founder eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

Foodies who Review South Florida (Facebook) | offthebroiler.com - Food Blog (archived) | View my food photos on Instagram

Twittter: @jperlow | Mastodon @jperlow@journa.host

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Neil, Here is a stovetop recipe.

1 1/2 qt cream

24 yolks

pinch salt

1 vanilla bean

8 oz sugar

Bring the cream, bean, and salt to a boil.

Turn off heat, add sugar and whisk to dissolve.

Temper yolks and add back to the pot.

Whisking constantly (bottom and sides), plus turn the pot ot avoid hot spots- bring to a boil in the center of the pot.

Yes, you want the custard to break- this will ensure that it will set in your dishes (you are taking it just over the proper temp).

Strain (medium strainer) into a container and place in an ice bath.

Beur mix the custard to smooth (make sure that the ice bath is up to the same level as the custard.

Cool slightly before pouring (if I am putting berries in- I cool it till it is thick enough that the berries won't float.)

This is the technique that I learned at Postrio in the early 90's- we were selling over 60 per day in puff pastry shells (and yes- we made the puff and lined those shells everyday, with perfect sharp corners!). This was Spago's technique made for mass production (at Spago the brulee would be placed over a water bath for 45 minutes aprox- but they had time to do this, as they only served dinner- they had all day). We usually did a 96 yolk batch.

These days I'm doing a kabocha pumpkin creme brulee- a 72 yolk batch

This method is great for a consistant product- and no worrying about baking time, oven space, etc...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great timing Karen.........I'm serving a pumkin brulee tart right now too and I'm using a puff pastry shell. BUT when I torched them for the first time last night I had a problem, the shells burnt! The residual heat from the torch lights them up (being careful not to hit the shell dirrectly with the torch). Do you have a method for avoiding that? (I wound up trimming off the edges but I don't want to, I like the brulee being lower then the edge of the tart.) I never had this issue with other crusts, but my pp is pretty thin. Anyone have a solution?

Also, I wasn't crazy about my first attempt at stovetop pumpkin brulee. It chilled too thick and I wound up cutting it 50/50 with a caramel brulee I had on hand at the last minute. How have you been doing your stovetop pumpkin brulee? Are you adding the pumpkin to your regular proportions or subbing out some cream in it's place? (I subbed out some cream which is why mine was too thick)

In answer to Neil, I've used recipes from Chefette and Roland Mesnier. But I haven't tasted them side by side to draw any comparisions. Chefettes recipe is much like what Karen posted and excellent. Mesniers stovetop versions use cornstarch.

I particularly liked his champagne version: (he serves this over champagne macerated green grapes which tastes pretty darn good)

10 yolks

1 c. sugar

1 qt. heavy cream

6 tbsp. cornstarch

pinch of salt

3 vanilla beans

2 c. champagne

8 tbsp butter

Method: Stovetop in a pot, not double boiling.....whisk until smooth yolks, sugar and cornstarch (he whips until light). Heat cream and salt, scrap vanilla into it. Temper into yolk mixture and cook till boil. Strain into your mixing bowl and mix until custard is room temp. then add butter. Slowly add champagne until it's just combined, don't over mix. He tells you to leave his custards uncovered in the cooler for at least 4 hours (they don't develop a skin either).

Heres a couple of sentences on the topic from his book Dessert University: "Stirring the custard as it cooks incorporates air into the mixture, making the finished dessert much lighter then the baked version. To this end, I also whip the egg yolks very well to give them as much volume as possible." "Adding cornstarch allows me to make the custard with fewer egg yolks then is customary, and this too contributes to the exceptionally silky and delicate texture."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wendy, I use 2c pumpkin puree per 24 yolk batch- it is freshly roasted and pureed, so not as tight and thick as canned would be. If you are using canned, you can reduce your yolks probably up to four. (vanilla bean, cinnamon sticks, cloves, ginger)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, I tried KarenS's stovetop brulee reicpe yesterday, and after chilling overnight it just hasn't set up as much as I think it should. It's really just the consistency of very thick creme anglaise. Also, with using all heavy cream, it seems a bit too rich for me. Did I do something wrong? I only made a 1/3 size batch since it was just a test:

pint cream

8 yolks

tiny pinch salt

tsp vanilla

2.5 oz sugar

I let it come to a full boil and it broke just like Karen said it would. Burr mixed in ice bath then poured into dishes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am also very interested in a stovetop brulee. Seems like Neil did everything he was supposed to.......I wonder what happened?

Also, what does (burr, beur) mix mean? Is it the use of a stick blender?

I'm thinking Wendy's recipe might work out better because of the cornstarch. Gives you a little insurance that the custards will set up.

What kind of a flavor does the champagne give it? Is there a bite?

Edited by chefpeon (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What kind of a flavor does the champagne give it? Is there a bite?

I really like the way some alchols taste with custard bases (from tirimisu to anglaise). I'm not a big drinker at all and muteing the liquour in custard bases I think brings a certain subtley/nuance that makes me appreciate the complexity of the liquour that I don't get drinking them. I'm not sure by what you mean "is there a bite?"? .....Your final taste depends upon the quality of your champagne.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hmmm... You could add a couple of yolks. It should be very thick- did you see it scramble? I remember that Las Vegas does not have very good cream- you just may need the extra yolk. Full boil (boiling in the center of the pot). Usually when it doesn't set, it was not cooked enough- my assistant used to do that, she was scared of burning it. Let me know how it goes (we make it like that every day).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have baked brulee in a convection oven at 200 degrees to check the results. It works fine if you can spare an oven for hours. For a lavender creme brulee, I wanted something lighter and displaced 25% of the cream with milk. I liked the results using the no water bath and 200 degrees better than I did when using all cream. For the sugar on the top, my preference has been Turbinado.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have baked brulee in a convection oven at 200 degrees to check the results.  It works fine if you can spare an oven for hours.  For a lavender creme brulee, I wanted something lighter and displaced 25% of the cream with milk.  I liked the results using the no water bath and 200 degrees better than I did when using all cream.  For the sugar on the top, my preference has been Turbinado.

Ooops, I am new at this -- I forgot to mention that this was done without the water bath. The ramekins were placed on an empty sheet pan. This was all in the interest of science. But, with the results as they were, sometimes I do it anyway.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

Tried making the creme brulee from the Les Halles cookbook last week, and it came out decidedly pudding-y. Tasted great, but I couldn't get it to the right texture. Tried tenting with foil and a longer cook time, but it just didn't work.

My ramekins were the required size, but the shape was deeper and narrower-like a cup. I've made individual cheesecakes in these, so I thought it wouldn't be a problem for the brulee.

Is this why it never really firmed up? Did I maybe not whisk the egg yolks enough before adding the cream?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

when it comes to texture one little tip i have that many don't consider is the whisking. when you temper your yolks with the cream, instead of vigorously whisking do it gentll. also using a rubber spatula works well too so it creates less bubbles. when you cook em do the foil thing and the longer cooking time as well. lemme know how it turns out... or did you already do what i just suggested? in that case can't be much help

bork bork bork

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How did you cook your custard? I remember reading somewhere that custards cooked over a bain and stirred stay noticably more liquid than those which are baked in a water bath.

I made stovetop creme brulee once, and wont do it again for that very reason. It firmed only to a pudding consistency. However, Dani Mc mentions using a foil tent, so he must have done his creme in the oven.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The simple facts are, not all creme brulee recipes work. I've tried more then dozens of them......seems like zillions.........and they don't all work. You've got to have enough yolks to thicken properly and theres alot of recipes that don't.

My favorite brulee recipe is almost set before it's baked. By the time I put the hot cream into the yolks and get it upstairs to my oven the stuff is thick! It actually bakes in the reccomended time too.

I can't tell you how many recipes take double or triple the time mentioned in the recipe.

The depth of your container really does make a difference. If you've got too much depth compounded with a weak recipe it's a nightmare, they never set evenly. I've also (due to conditions in my kitchen) used my favorite recipe and then not gotten hot enough water in my water bath and had the whole center set-up and the exterior not.

What I've been doing lately (and it's been a big hit) is I bake my brulee' in hotel pans, let them cool. Then I scoop my brulee' into thin crisp caramelized puff pastry cups.

If your struggling alot, you can make chocolate brulees' and they almost always thicken considerably. So make a white chocolate brulee' and add what other extra flavoring you want, or don't.

I'll come back and post my recipe later.

Oh, I forgot to add............I got a couple complaints on my stovetop brulee'. I like it, but it's not as thick as customers seem to prefer..........so I'm back to baking mine.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wendy is right about all that stuff.

Countless recipes that just aren't good, (I'm not including Bourdains Les Halles one, haven't used it)

Cooking times are almost always wrong.

You HAVE to have 9-10 yolks per quart of Heavy cream.

I never use anything but heavy cream in mine, never had a complaint.

Don't whisk too much.

After combining yolk sugar cream I cook like an anglaise to 85c/181f.

Strain and bake.

There's another thread about brulee here and someone(suzanneF? KarenS?)

who was taught a method for brulee where you "break" it (scramble it) then immersion/stick blend it, strain and let it set up.

Use a blow torch to get rid of bubbles before you cook.

Good Luck!



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Shalmanese, I baked it in a waterbath, and finished with a torch (though the torch was woefully inadequate. I need to find a better one.)

Thinking about it, I've had to extend cook times more often than not in my oven, so maybe that's the biggest culprit. Its not an old oven (about 15 months), but its not exactly top of the line. I don't know what model it is, but its made by GE, and gas powered. I've never had a problem with the range top, but maybe I should throw some bricks or a pizza stone into the bottom of the oven.

I am far too inexperienced a cook to go blaming recipies every time I screw something up, so I will try it again. Tan319, The Les Halles ingredient ratios are indeed what you suggested, so I have to assume that its my error; in the depth of the cups, or the oven temp/bake time, or all three. I will try cooking like a creme anglaise next time.

Thanks for the help, I'll have another go at it in a week or so, and report the results.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One thing that can cause your brulee to take longer to bake is using too much water in the bath. Water takes a long time (and a lot of energy) to heat up, so if you use too much, the water will keep the dishes and the custard from reaching the proper temperature. What will happen is the cream will dry out before it bakes. For shallow dishes about 1/8 - 1/4 of an inch is plenty. You may need more like 3/8 of an inch for deeper dishes, but not much more. Half way up the dish is way too much.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Create New...