Kitchen Chemistry : Crème Brûlée

pp. 680-691

What will happen chemically to the sugar when we heat it with the blowtorch?
Why would you want to reduce the heat near the end of heating a sugar syrup?
How does stirring impact crystal size?
What are some non-crystalline candies? What techniques are used to prevent crystal formation?

Crème Brûlée Adapted from Epicurious Food (
For Custard:
• 2 cups whipping cream
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
• 5 large egg yolks

For Crème Brûlée
• 12 teaspoons sugar


Making custard
• Preheat oven to 325 F.
• Mix cream and sugar in heavy medium saucepan.
• Using small sharp knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean. Add seeds and bean to saucepan.
• Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to simmer.
• Cover pan, reduce heat to very low and simmer gently 10 minutes to infuse flavors
• Strain into large measuring cup
• Whisk yolks in medium bowl until well blended. Gradually whisk in hot cream mixture just to blend.
• Return custard to measuring cup
• Divide among ramekins
• Pour enough hot water into pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins
• Carefully transfer pan to oven
• Bake custards until almost set in center when gently shaken, about 35 minutes.
• Let cool 30 minutes
• Chill at least 3 hours and up to 2 days

Making Crème Brûlée
• Sprinkle 2 teaspoons sugar evenly over each custard.
• Working with 1 custard at a time, hold blowtorch so that flame is 2 inches above surface.
• Direct flame so that sugar melts and browns, about 2 minutes
• Refrigerate until custards are firm again but topping is still brittle, at least 2 hours, but no longer than 4 hours so that topping does not soften
• You can garnish crème brûlée with fruit

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