Crème brûlée

Crème brûlée or crème brulée (/ˌkrɛm brˈl/; French pronunciation: [kʁɛm bʁy.le]), also known as burnt cream or Trinity cream,[1] and virtually identical to the original crema catalana,[2] is a dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a layer of hardened caramelized sugar. It is normally served slightly chilled; the heat from the caramelizing process tends to warm the top of the custard, while leaving the center cool. The custard base is traditionally flavored with vanilla in French cuisine, but can have other flavorings. It is sometimes garnished with fruit.

Crème brûlée
Alternative namesBurned cream, Burnt cream, Trinity cream, Cambridge burnt cream
Region or stateFrance, England, Spain and Netherlands
Serving temperatureRoom temperature
Main ingredientsCream, sugar, egg or egg yolks, vanilla
Breaking French crème brûlée's hard top layer by spoon.


The earliest known recipe of a dessert called crème brûlée appears in François Massialot's 1691 cookbook Cuisinier royal et bourgeois.[3][4] The question of its origin has inspired debate within the modern gastronomical community, with some authors suggesting that crema catalana, whose origins date to the 14th century, may have inspired chefs throughout Europe.[5]

Some authors mention Bartolomeo Stefani's Latte alla Spagnuola (1662) as describing crema catalana,[5] but it calls for browning the top of the custard before serving with sugar on top.[6]

The name "burnt cream" was later used to refer to the dish in the 1702 English translation of Massialot's Cuisinier royal et bourgeois.[7] In 1740, he referred to a similar recipe as crême à l'Angloise, or 'English cream', which further cast doubt on its origins. The dessert was introduced at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1879 as "Trinity Cream" or "Cambridge burnt cream", with the college arms "impressed on top of the cream with a branding iron".[1] No dessert by the name crème brûlée appeared again in French cookbooks until the 1980s.[3]

Crème brûlée was generally uncommon in both French and English cookbooks of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.[3] It became extremely popular in the 1980s, "a symbol of that decade's self-indulgence and the darling of the restaurant boom",[2][8] probably popularized by Sirio Maccioni at his New York restaurant Le Cirque. He claimed to have made it "the most famous and by far the most popular dessert in restaurants from Paris to Peoria".[3][9]


Crème brûlée is usually served in individual ramekins. Discs of caramel may be prepared separately and put on top just before serving, or the caramel may be formed directly on top of the custard immediately before serving. To do this, sugar is sprinkled onto the custard, then caramelized under a red-hot salamander (a cast-iron disk with a long wooden handle) or with a butane torch.[10]

There are two methods for making the custard. The more common creates a "hot" custard by whisking egg yolks in a double boiler with sugar and incorporating the cream, adding vanilla once the custard is removed from the heat.[11] Alternatively, the egg yolk/sugar mixture can be tempered with hot cream, then adding vanilla at the end. In the "cold" method, the egg yolks and sugar are whisked together until the mixture reaches the ribbon stage. Then, cold heavy cream is whisked into the yolk mixture, followed by the vanilla. It is then poured into ramekins and baked in a bain-marie.[12]

The sugar being caramelized with a blowtorch

See also


  1. Davidson, Alan (21 August 2014). The Oxford Companion to Food. OUP Oxford. p. 230. ISBN 978-0-19-104072-6. Archived from the original on 6 March 2017. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  2. Andrews, Colman (3 December 2005). Catalan Cuisine, Revised Edition: Vivid Flavors From Spain's Mediterranean Coast. Harvard Common Press. pp. 247–. ISBN 978-1-55832-329-2. Archived from the original on 15 December 2019. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  3. Goldstein, Darra, ed. (2015). The Oxford companion to sugar and sweets. Oxford. ISBN 978-0-19-931361-7. OCLC 905969818. Archived from the original on 16 August 2021. Retrieved 16 August 2021.
  4. Grigson, Jane (1 January 1985). Jane Grigson's British Cookery. Atheneum. ISBN 9780689115240. Archived from the original on 30 September 2020. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  5. Sabban, Françoise; Serventi, Silvano (1998). La gastronomie au Grand Siècle : 100 recettes de France et d'Italie. Oxford University Press. p. 272. ISBN 978-2234050426.
  6. Stefani, Bartolomeo (1622). L'Arte di ben cucinare. pp. 97–98. Archived from the original on 16 August 2021. Retrieved 16 August 2021.
  7. McGee, Harold (20 March 2007). On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Simon and Schuster. p. 97. ISBN 978-1-4165-5637-4. Archived from the original on 25 December 2020. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  8. Sax, Richard (9 November 2010). Classic Home Desserts: A Treasury of Heirloom and Contemporary Recipes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 149–. ISBN 978-0-547-50480-3. Archived from the original on 21 December 2016. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  9. Maccioni, Sirio; Elliot, Peter (2004). Sirio : the story of my life and Le Cirque. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. ISBN 0-471-20456-0. OCLC 54677462. Archived from the original on 16 August 2021. Retrieved 16 August 2021.
  10. Cloake, Felicity (19 September 2012). "How to cook perfect creme brulee". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 26 July 2018. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  11. "Vanilla-bean creme brulee". 25 November 2010. Archived from the original on 20 August 2018. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  12. Delp, Valorie. "Creme Brulee History and Recipe". LoveToKnow. Archived from the original on 17 October 2020. Retrieved 17 October 2020.

General and cited references

  • "Origin of Crème Brûlée". Petits Propos Culinaires. 31 (61). March 1989.
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