Crème brûlée

Crème brûlée

Leiths How to Cook
Peter Cassidy

You need to start preparing this dish a day in advance to allow time for chilling.


Quantity Ingredient
300ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
4 egg yolks
1-2 tablespoons caster sugar, to taste, plus extra for the topping


  1. Heat the oven to 150°C.
  2. Put the cream into a saucepan. Split the vanilla pod in half lengthways, scrape out the seeds and add them to the cream along with the pod. Bring to scalding point over a low to medium heat. Remove from the heat and leave the vanilla to infuse for at least 10 minutes, then remove and discard the pod.
  3. Mix the egg yolks with the sugar in a medium bowl, then pour the warm cream into the bowl and stir until combined.
  4. Strain the custard into 4 ramekins. Stand them in a roasting tin. Pour in enough boiling water to come half to three-quarters up the sides of the dishes. Transfer to the oven and cook for 30–40 minutes, or until just set and a skin has formed. Leave to cool and then chill in the fridge overnight, to allow them to set further.
  5. For the topping, use either a kitchen blowtorch or the grill heated to its highest setting. Sprinkle an even 2–3 mm layer of caster sugar over each custard. Wipe the rim of the dish to remove any excess sugar, to avoid it burning. Spraying the sugar very lightly with water, using a spray bottle, can speed up the caramelising process, helping the sugar to dissolve. If using a blowtorch to caramelise the sugar, avoid holding the torch too close to the sugar and keep it moving to avoid burnt patches. If placing the ramekins under the grill, move the dishes as necessary to achieve an even colour.
  6. Leave the caramel to cool and serve within 1 hour. Do not chill or the caramel will liquefy.


  • White chocolate and Earl Grey tea crème brûlée: Omit the vanilla pod and infuse the cream when scalding with 1 teaspoon Earl Grey tea leaves, or to taste; it shouldn’t be too strong. Strain the cream and discard the tea. Reheat the cream, adding 30 g white chocolate, in pieces. Allow the chocolate to melt fully in the cream, then proceed as above.

    Coffee crème brûlée: Omit the vanilla pod. Add 1–2 teaspoons instant coffee granules to the cream when scalding, allowing it to melt into the cream. Proceed as above.

    Stem ginger crème brûlée: Omit the vanilla pod. Cut a ball of preserved stem ginger into julienne and add to the cream when scalding. In place of the 1–2 tablespoons sugar, use syrup from the jar of preserved ginger to taste.

    Kahlua crème brûlée: Omit the vanilla pod and add 2½–3½ tablespoons Kahlua to the custard before straining into ramekins.

    Orange crème brûlée: Omit the vanilla pod and infuse the scalding cream with the zest of 1 orange, then strain and proceed as above. A few drops of orange flower water or Grand Marnier can be added to the custard, before straining, to taste. It might also be necessary to add an extra 1–2 teaspoons caster sugar, to taste.

    Cinnamon crème brûlée: Omit the vanilla pod and infuse the scalded cream with 2–3 cinnamon sticks for 30 minutes. Remove the cinnamon and proceed as above.

Using classic crème brûlée dishes

  • Use the traditional shallow ‘ear dishes’ (125 ml capacity) if you have them; the custard will probably cook more quickly, so check after 20–30 minutes.
Leiths School of food and wine
cookery course
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