Monday, February 13, 2012

Crème Brulee – an amazingly elegant French dessert

Crème brulee is one of the most amazingly elegant French desserts ever created. It’s also a real crowd pleaser, especially with the men. Crème brulee (pronounced "krem broo-LAY") means “burnt cream” in French and the caramelized sugar on top of the custard characterizes the dish.

Surprisingly it’s very easy to make. Crème brulee is basically custard with nothing but eggs, cream and sugar, plus a little vanilla for flavor. All you need is time to let it rest overnight in the refrigerator and have a little patience between the steps and you’ve got it made.

It’s even easier to make if you solicit the help of your husband, which I’ve done in this case. It’s one of Meakin’s specialties and he enjoys playing around with the seasonings. You can add flavors such as Grand Marnier, lavender, citrus, or in our case star anise and cinnamon. Don’t be afraid of the flavorings. They are very subtle. You could also make your own vanilla sugar for the sugar on the top. Meakin lightened it up a bit and zapped away a few of the calories by substituting half and half for some of the cream. He follows the basic recipe from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, and goes from there. Here is an excellent tutorial on how to caramelize the top of the crème brulee that I found very helpful. We try to eat healthy, so we only prepare this when we're having guests. After all, we need someone to help us eat the six servings.

Often we’ve let our dinner guests brulee their own with the torch, but I offer this suggestion with a warning. Make sure they haven’t had too many martinis or glasses of wine, otherwise you might be asking for a kitchen disaster.

As the Barefoot Contessa likes to say, “Your guests may not recall what you served for dinner, but they will always remember the dessert.” And crème brulee is one of the most memorable desserts of all.

Crème Brulee
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Barefoot in Paris – serves 5 to 6

1 extra-large egg
4 extra-large egg yolks
½ cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for each serving
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups half and half
5 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, not the imitation kind
1 tablespoon orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or you can use a handheld mixer), mix the egg, egg yolks, and ½ cup of the sugar together on low speed until just combined. Meanwhile add the star anise and cinnamon into the cream, then scald the cream and half and half in a small saucepan until it’s very hot to the touch but not boiled. Remove the star anise and cinnamon and set aside. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the hot cream to the eggs. Add the vanilla and orange liqueur.

When the cream has cooled, add the star anise and cinnamon stick again, then place the cream in a bowl and lay plastic wrap over the very top of the cream to prevent a skin forming. Refrigerate overnight for the flavors to meld.

The following day preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Remove the cream from the refrigerator, then remove the star anise and cinnamon stick and discard. Pour the cream into 6 to 8 ounce ramekins until almost full.

Place the ramekins in a baking pan and carefully pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the custards are set around the edges and wiggly in the center when gently shaken. Remove the custards from the water bath, cool to room temperature. and refrigerate until firm.

To serve, spread a tablespoon of sugar evenly on the top of each ramekin and heat with a kitchen blowtorch until the sugar caramelizes evenly. Allow to sit at room temperature for a minute until the sugar caramelizes and hardens.

Sanibel Beach

It’s been quite cool in south Florida the last day or so. This morning the local weather report said it was a breezy 39 degrees. The temperature is always a bit warmer on the water and it was 44 on our lanai when we got up this morning. A little known fact about Sanibel and Captiva Island (knows as “the islands” in Fort Myers): Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of the famous aviator, wrote her best-selling love letter, A Gift From the Sea, without ever identifying it as Captiva Island.

When we lived in the Bahamas, if there was a cold front in the forecast, our friend Silbert always started his weather report for the Cruiser’s Net with, “Tonight you’ll need a side blanket as our forecast calls for a cold front to approach our area late today.” A side blanket, for those of you who don’t know and we didn’t either the first time we heard it, is a person to snuggle to in the bed on a cold night. So much more romantic for Valentine’s Day than an electric blanket don’t you think?

Happy Valentine’s Day from Meakin & Sam. The orchid is a valentine to me from my very special valentine.

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This recipe will be linked to Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate ThursdayFoodie Friday at Designs by Gollum & Healthy Mommy Healthy Baby Sweet Saturday.


  1. Hi Sam Sweetie...
    Oh my goodness sakes, Creme Brulee? Can I just pop over to your place? Oh does this ever look delish? What a beautiful share and the little raspberries? Yummy.

    Oh Sam, what I wouldn't give to be dining at your table tonight. Lovely share. Looks fabulous.

    Thank you for sharing sweet friend. Have a beautiful Valentine's Day. Many hugs and much love, Sherry

  2. It has long been my mission in life to order creme brulee when it is on the menu--ever in search of the best. My husband likes it too. He made some not so long ago and put it under the broiler. It didn't work well. He says that next time he/we make it, we'll use the propane log/candle lighter because it's the same as a kitchen torch. That way, we won't have to store both?? I'm leery. I just don't think we should be caramelizing our sugar with the same instrument we light the fireplace with!!

    It's going to be cold here tonight. A "side blanket" is in order.


  3. What a lovely presentation! Happy Valentine's Day to you and Meakin.

  4. We love creme brulee, and yours is perfect. I love the fact about Captiva Island being the island Anna Morrow Lindbergh wrote about. "Gift from the Sea" is a very favorite book of mine. Now I LOVE the book so much more since you shared this. Just might need to read it again and again....

  5. That is such a refined dessert! Your crème brûlée looks divine and so beautiful.



  6. Creme Brulee is my all-time favorite dessert to order at a restaurant. I love that carmelized crusty top and the creamy center - oh my!

    It's been chilly everywhere, it seems. 39? Wow.

  7. Simply perfect! I have never made Ina's recipe, but I love the idea of adding liqueur :)

  8. I love Creme Brulee and you are right, it is very easy to make. Yours looks very yummy!

  9. Love Sanibel and's been too that we have found or spots we hardly differ..

    The addition of star anise sounds wonderful..I love that spice for it's beauty and it's taste.
    Your recipe differs from the ones I have..I will have to try yours..happy Love day to you both~
    Un couple charmant~
    Chilly here too w/ a brisk wind..donned our snowshoes for only 45 mins today.

  10. I love eggs, but I'm not much for egg custard, however Bev loves this stuff and yours looks outstanding, especially with the raspberries and mint. I showed it to Bev who said "ooh isn't that beautiful."

  11. From a very few sweets I eat creme brulee is my all time favorite. It is an amazing creation, Sam! Beautiful, and always elegant!

  12. I've got creme brulee on my queue as Guy recently got me a torch that I'm wanting to try out. It is a silky, creamy, luscious dessert and a special not-too-often treat. Love Meakin's flavorings.

  13. Pure elegance. Perfectly executed creme brulee.

    Love, love the addition of GM.

  14. I love the "crack" of a creme brule as you break the sugar surface. The orchid is gorgeous. We have one at the office that a patient gave to us that still looks exactly as it di 2 months ago. Just stunning.

  15. Happy Valentine's Day to you!
    I would be very happy to pick up a spoon and dig into one of these beauties;-)

  16. Happy Valentine's Day to you & your loved ones too, Sam. Your creme brulee sounds terrific for this special day. Hope you're going to have the most romantic evening.

  17. ::: sigh. Love Creme Brulee. I haven't made it in awhile and your beautiful photos are tempting me put it on the list for this weekend. I've never heard of the side blanket phrase. We use those alot here in Colorado. :) That photo of Sanibel reminds me of the spot on the beach where we used to stay. Just aways down from the light house.

  18. My favourite, how did you know LOL Diane

  19. I Love Creme Brulee!.. and,how did I not know you are on either Sanibel or Captiva?... such a beautiful part of Florida. Have been doing research on Condo ownership down there, not an easy find for under $600,000. *sigh* A girl can dream.

  20. My daughter's favorite dessert - I finally got her a complete kit - but the torch came from Ace Hardware! You really made it look so enticing for "the day!" And the orchid - what a perfect way to greet the day - seeing that every morning. (Wouldn't mind the beach either!) Happy "V" Day!

  21. My all-time favorite dessert. Lovely photos.
    Happy Valentine's Day

  22. Nothing beats crême Brulée. Great photos and really love Sinabel Beach. That orchid speaks to my soul. Have a great day.

  23. I adore creme brulee! Yours look extremely delicious flavoured star anise and cinnamon!
    Amazing photos!

  24. Love creme brulee and you have nailed this recipe. I love Ina Garten and all her recipes, they are always a hit.
    I need to buy a blow torch , the last time I made creme brulee , I put it under the broiler, but I think the torch makes it look more professional.
    Happy Valentine's Day!

  25. Sam, beautiful dessert, I love creme brulee and yours look absolutely decadent.
    Beautiful picture of the beach!
    Happy Valentine's Day :)

  26. What a delightful expression "side blanket!" I will remember this one...

    J'adore crème brûlée! I usually make white chocolate (only the very best chocolate) macadamia nut crème brûlée. Miam-miam! I will have to try the star anise and cinnamon stick.

    Wishing you a wonderful Valentine's Day!


  27. Creme Brulee is one of my favorites -- but my valentine loves chocolate so I've made chocolate mini-bundts, topped with a chocolate glaze, whipped cream, and fresh strawberries. Maybe I'll find a reason to do the Creme brulee soon...

  28. How beautiful! I agree that creme brulee is a very elegant dessert, but I have yet to make it! The ingredients are quite simple which is great, I love desserts that look amazing, but were very easy to make. Hope your Valentine's Day is filled with much love :)

  29. Yes, indeed! This is one of my all-time fave desserts. No matter how full I am, I always have room for this dessert. I love creme brulee, and I have special dishes just to make them. I like pumpkin brulee, as well. It's so elegant and very easy to make. In fact, I've been thinking of making some for company, this weekend. Beautiful photos!

  30. Yum! I'm actually in France right now and this looks as good as anything I've seen here! Beautiful!

  31. Hi Sam, thanks for your lovely comment on my blog :) The creme brulee looks absolutely divine, I do love the sound of star anise in it. Plus, I'd love to be able to blowtorch my own at the dinner table, what a great idea!

  32. Did you save one for me?

    Happy Valentine's Day.♥

  33. Happy belated Valentine's Day! I adore orchids and the one Meakin gave you is beautiful. I need to retry creme brulee. The first time I made it, the custard came out fine, but I placed too much sugar on top and the entire thing ended up crunchy. Yours turned out beautifully, so delicate and creamy, the way it should be.

  34. Sam,
    Glad you are enjoying your winter break......that creme brulee looks gorgeous! I have never attempted it at home.

  35. Good morning! I found you over at Miz Helen's Full Plate and I'm so glad I did. I just received a new culinary torch last week for my birthday and I've been looking for a great CB recipe. This looks like the perfect place to start :)

  36. This is the dessert I order in restaurants every time I see it on the menu. It's surprising how many restaurants can mess it up! Yours is probably one of the most beautiful creme brulee's I've ever seen! It looks perfect! Love the touch of orange flavor and am very interested to try one with the star anise. I guess it's time to buckle down and make some! Thanks for the inspiration.

  37. Dear Sam, I very much enjoyed reading this post.
    The orchid is just beautiful.
    The pictures of the beach are to long for, just beautiful.
    I never attempted Creme Brulee, it is on the list.
    Thank you for sharing. Blessings my friend, Catherine xo

  38. What a lovely orchid! The weather looks divine. I really love creme brulee, but I've always been rather scared of making it. It seems hard to me even though I've been assured it's not. One of these days I'll have to give it a try.

  39. i have always wanted to make my own brulee especially since my hubby bought me a mini torch but never got around to it. Yours is making me wish I had the ingredients right now! Breathtakingly beautiful !

  40. What a lovely post, Sam. All your photos today are wonderful and the brulee sounds delicious. I love the orchid. Have a wonderful weekend. Blessings...Mary

  41. Fabulous blog you have here. I love Creme Brulee and I love Ian Garten's recipe....incredible dessert! I am going to look more around your blog at all your great recipes. Stop by and check out my chocolates on my blog.


  42. Wow, this looks superb! I'm very impressed! Please stop by and link up to Foodie Friday

  43. I just wanted to thank you for your visit and your nice comment on my blog, I absolutely love your blog!

    Creme Brulee is something I haven't made in a long time and yours is simply perfect!


  44. Hi Sam,
    Creme Brulee is one of my favorite's. Your Creme Brulee is melting in my mouth and I am day dreaming about the last time I had it. A very special dessert for a very special evening.

    Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and have a great week end.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  45. This is my dream. To make a creme brulee. First step, buy a kitchen torch. I'm excited. Also kind of scared.

  46. what a great dessert! the presentation is simply beautiful and it looks delicious

  47. No matter how full I am I can always find room for your dessert. I love the expression...side blacket.

  48. I love this recipe, but I'm afraid of blow torches... and fire in general. When Michael goes to light the pilot light, I run into the hallway with the phone in my hand, the 9 and the first 1 already dialed. So I'll have to live through your pics.

  49. Oh waw, a realy good & tasty home-made crème brûlée, dear Sam!
    This dessert can always win me over :)

    Stunning pictures too! That beach looks amazing!
    I would totally want to be there right now. It is freezing over here in Belgium. Today= minus 15°C!

  50. This is probably Alexis' favorite dessert. No probably about it. Maybe I'll surprise her and make it for her while she's at work today.
    I love hearing the crunch when you break through the sugary top.

  51. Sam, I SWEAR I'm going to try making these! I love to order it out & have never even thought about doing it myself.

    Your photos are positively mouth watering!! GORGEOUS!!


    p.s. We lived in Venice, FL for almost 10 yrs. & know Sanibel & Captiva Is. very well.

  52. Creme brulee is my daughter's favorite dessert! Yours looks nice and creamy and soft.

    I love your Valentine orchid, Sam! It's nice to receive a flower that continues to flourish through the year.

  53. Beautiful shots - and I love that you added star anise to yours :)

  54. “Your guests may not recall what you served for dinner, but they will always remember the dessert.” I love it! And what perfect, beautiful crème brulée! Do you know I have never made it? Yours is calling me to try THIS recipe! Just beautiful, Sam!

  55. Gorgeous pics. Creme Brulee is one of my favorites. Thanks so much for sharing at Sweet Saturday, hope to see you again this weekend :)


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