Creme Brulee

This all started as a well-intentioned idea: I wanted to make a special, classic dessert for Valentine’s Day because no amount of cynicism is going to keep me from eating freakin’ dessert! But because well-intentioned things never stay that way, this whole thing derailed into a perverted confection. Like… ‘Paula Deen’-perverted. Which is why you’re looking at a photo of S’mores Creme Brulee, because the French just didn’t bake with enough marshmallows!? But before you doubt me, and my absurd twist on something simple and delicious, please try it. I’m not saying you won’t go back to regular Creme Brulee, but I am saying that you will go back-and-forth between the two desserts until you’ll end up eating 4 cups of cream in one night and what could be a better way to celebrate romance? Or being single? Or just…life. 
Creme Brulee
Serves 4
565 calories
23 g
440 g
51 g
6 g
30 g
164 g
94 g
19 g
0 g
19 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 565
Calories from Fat 448
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 51g
Saturated Fat 30g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 16g
Cholesterol 440mg
Sodium 94mg
Total Carbohydrates 23g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 19g
Protein 6g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 1 vanilla bean
  2. 2 cups heavy cream
  3. 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  4. Pinch of salt
  5. 6 large egg yolks
  6. 6 tsp granulated sugar (for topping)
  1. Preheat the oven to 300F.
  2. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds out with a paring knife. In a medium saucepan, combine vanilla seeds, cream and 1/4 cup of sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, until all the sugar is melted; watch it carefully, so it doesn’t boil over. After the sugar is melted, remove from heat and let it cool for about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, separate the egg yolks from the eggs (you can discard the egg whites or save them for another recipe, like a Pavlova) and place them in the bowl of a stand mixer. I find that tempering the eggs is a lot easier in a stand mixer because it can do all the whisking work for you. So, with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks for a few seconds, until mixed. Slowly add the warm cream to the eggs, a tablespoon at a time at first. Keep whisking while adding the cream; don’t pour the cream too fast, otherwise it’ll scramble the egg yolks and who wants vanilla omelette anyway? Keep adding the cream, slowly, until all the eggs and cream are thoroughly combined. At this point, you can strain the mixture and discard solids, but I usually don’t have any solid bits in my custard and skip this step.
  4. In a large baking dish, place 4 (5 ounce) ramekins. Divide the mixture evenly the ramekins. Pour water into the baking dish, making sure not to splash any inside the ramekins, until the water level comes about half way up the sides of the ramekins. The reason for this water bath is to cook the custard evenly and keep it from cracking, so it’s an important step.
  5. Bake the custard until it’s just barely set, registering about 170-175F in the middle. For shallow ramekins this takes about 25 minutes, and for deeper ones about 45 minutes; it all depends, so it’s truly best to use a thermometer.
  6. Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Cover them tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours.
  7. Right before serving, sprinkle about a teaspoon of sugar on top of each custard, and using a blow torch, caramelize the sugar until it turns crackly and amber. Serve right away, as you want the caramelized sugar to stay crisp.
  1. Variation: S’mores Creme Brulee
  2. Gather 4 oz of semisweet chocolate chips, mini marshmallows and graham crackers. Follow the recipe above until you have the cream and egg yolks mixed together in the stand mixer bowl. Melt the chocolate chips and whisk them into the custard. Continue with the recipe, right until you’re ready to serve.
  3. Instead of topping the creme brulee with sugar, add the mini marshmallows and, using a blow torch again because it’s fun, torch the marshmallows until they warm up and melt slightly. Sprinkle some crushed graham crackers on top and serve.
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
A Kitchen Odyssey