A french custard dish, noted for its crispy caramelized sugar topping. A simple recipe:
1Quart of Heavy Cream
9 egg yolks
1 Vanilla Bean
3/4 of a cup of very fine granulated sugar

Heat your oven to 250 degrees. Place your cream into a saucepan. Split the Vanilla bean and scrape the insides into the pan (I usually throw the pod in too). Bring the cream/vanilla mixture to a low simmer (do not boil!). Strain the cream into a bowl and allow to cool. Cream your sugar and egg yolks together. Mix the cream in your egg yolks slowly (you may want to temper your eggs with (a small amount) some of the hot cream first, if you do not have time to allow it to cool sufficiently). Divide the mixture into ramekins filled about 3/4 of the way. Place the ramekins into a deep roasting pan. Fill the pan with water so that the level of the water matches the level of the custard in your ramekins. Bake until the custard is set (about 40 minutes). Remove the ramekins from the pan and allow to cool slightly. Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of sugar over the top of each custard. With a kitchen torch caramelize the sugar on each custard. This is done by sweeping the flame from the torch quickly and evenly across the surface of the sugar until it begins to bubble and turn brown.

For variations to flavor you can add a variety of items to the cream-vanilla mixture, including, ground espresso, orange peel, chocolate, etc... use your imagination.

There seems to be a distinct difference between American and European recipes for Crème Brûlée: American recipes seem to consistently call for the custard to be baked in order to set it completely, while European recipes don't.

Baking the brûlée makes it set quite firmly, allowing you to tip it out of the ramekin afterwards. This makes it easier to present it prettily, should you so wish: for example, surrounded by a fruit coulis, topped with a few leaves of fresh mint, and dusted with powdered sugar. An unbaked brûlée is generally served in the ramekin, and can be spooned out like whipped cream. Personally, I prefer the unbaked variety, because of its smoother, velvety mouthfeel.

Here's my simple recipe for an unbaked crème brûlée (serves 2):

  • 250ml double cream
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 60g caster sugar
  • half a vanilla pod, or 3 tsp vanilla essence (not vanilla flavouring)

Put the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl and cream them together until they form a smooth fondant-like paste. Put this aside until a little later.

Slice the half of your vanilla pod lengthwise. (Most vanilla pods are quite long come in jars or packets, and are folded in half. If you're scaling this recipe up, it's easier to cut the whole pod in half along this fold before slicing it open.) Using the tip of your knife, scrape out the tiny black vanilla seeds from the pod. Put the seeds, the pod, and the cream in a small saucepan. Heat this mix slowly, while stirring continuously. Initially, the vanilla seeds all clump together in small blobs--stirring helps break them up and distribute them evenly throughout the cream. Be sure to hold your head over the pan and sniff in deeply, as the aroma is marvellous!

Before the cream comes to a boil, take it off the heat, and let it cool for a minute or so. Then, take a whisk or a fork, and pour half of the vanilla cream mixture into the bowl with the egg/sugar paste, whisking it gently. Keep whisking until this mix is smooth, then pour it back into the saucepan with the rest of the cream.

Now, put the saucepan back on a low heat, and keep whisking and stirring until it is just below the boil again. By this point it will be thickening gently, too, giving you a thick, velvety custard. Take the pan off the heat, and continue whisking for about three or four minutes. This additional whisking will turn the custard ultra-smooth, and remove any graininess or lumps it may have acquired while being heated.

Pour the custard into ramekins, and put them in your fridge to cool (about two hours). As they chill, they will set, but they won't go completely solid. If you cover them, you can keep them in the fridge for up to 24 hours--useful if you're preparing them in advance for a dinner party!

Just before you want to serve the brûlées, take them out of the fridge, and sprinkle some caster sugar over them. Turn the ramekins in your hand, tapping the sides, so that the sugar distributes itself evenly over the top of the custard.

Now, if you have a kitchen blowtorch use it to caramelise the sugar. (A kitchen blowtorch is an excellent and surprisingly versatile tool: you can use it for blackening peppers, browning and crisping meat, melting parmesan cheese over the top of pasta dishes, and much, much more. As Gounthar notes below, an ordinary blowtorch, filled with propane, would give the brûlées a bizarre taste. A proper kitchen blowtorch should be filled with butane, though, which leaves virtually no taste signature.)

If you don't have a blowtorch, you can put the ramekins under a very hot grill ("broiler" for you wacky American types), and let the heat from above melt and caramelise the sugar. If you're doing it this way, though, don't take your eyes off the brûlées for a second. The caramel can goes from a sweet brown to carbonised black in an instant.

Finally, allow the caramel to cool for a minute, and then serve. Tap the caramel shell and unleash the silky loveliness within!

Gavin bent and dutifully kissed his wife on the cheek, as she sat, calm as ever, her red-brown hair and golden tan making a splash of colour against the whiteness of the hospital sheets and pillows.

"I'll be back in the morning, in time for…" he began.

She smiled and cut him off. "I'm sorry for the fuss, love. Such an overreaction to a touch of tinnitus, I know, but Liam was so insistent that I didn't want to argue."

"Liam is a good doctor. If he thinks you need a CAT Scan, then you do. I'd rather have a little fuss now than ignore it, and regret it later."

And that, of course, was the last word on the subject, as his pronouncements always were. He patted Emma's hand, kissed her again and left, walking briskly away through the dark maze of corridors that would have warmed a troglodyte's heart, the heels of his expensive shoes making a staccato tapping on the polished floors which echoed, ringing, off of the sterile walls.

He had left the car in his park at work, taking a bus across town to the hospital, claiming disingenuously that parking would be impossible. The truth was that he could have parked easily, but if he had done that, given the hospital was considerably closer to home than work was, he would have had no excuse to be in Mission Bay in the evening, if anyone he knew was to see him there.

A taxi took him back to the office, where he quickly freshened up, changing his blue shirt for a crisp white one, and his sober tie for something trendier. He turned off his mobile, dropped it into the glove compartment of his Commodore, and reversed out of the parking space. Less than fifteen minutes later, he was sitting in Positano, watching Adrienne walk toward him.

He was balancing precariously on a dangerous tightrope this time, he knew. Other affairs had been conducted quietly, with meetings in out of the way places, where he could be secure that he wouldn't be recognised. If a woman ever became too demanding, asking for more than surreptitious trysts and fleeting couplings, he had simply walked away, with a parting gift large enough to ensure that his mistress didn't feel aggrieved or embittered enough to go running to his wife.

Because he was not prepared to lose Emma, and never had been. In his own, faithless way, he loved her, and he relied on her cheerful calm and quiet competence to keep him grounded when his enthusiasm, ambition or mercurial temperament got the better of him. She was warmth and comfort to him, as solidly reassuring and satisfying as a full English breakfast on a cold winter's morning.

This time was different though. He watched the woman -- no, the girl -- walking across the restaurant floor, and acknowledged ruefully that there was virtually no risk that he wouldn't take to keep her. For if Emma was bacon and eggs, Adrienne was crème brûlée: wicked, sinful, and utterly irresistible. From the wild tumble of dark curls at her head to the long toes that were hidden in the high, slim-heeled shoes she wore, she was a walking wet dream, curving where curves should be, slender and trim where extra flesh was undesirable. As she sat, smiling her hello, he heard the soft susurration of silk on silk and just the sound brought him inevitably to erection.

While they ate, their conversation was desultory. They had little to say to each other, but this relationship, Gavin reflected, almost bitterly, had nothing whatsoever to do with talking.

It had been about sex from the beginning.

She had walked into his office, and sat opposite him, crossing her legs, the skirt she wore (much too short for an interview) riding up to display a glimpse of ivory thigh framed between stocking and garter belt, before she ostentatiously pulled it down again.

He had been the one who had blushed, not her, as he had hastily dropped his eyes to the CV in his hand, but he had not been able to hide the tenting of his pants and she had smiled. She looked at him boldly as she answered the routine questions, her startling blue eyes holding his gaze, challenging him. He had decided firmly not to give her the job, considering how uncomfortable her proximity would be, when he asked his final question "What unique qualities do you have to offer that would set you apart from the other candidates?"

She hadn't spoken. She had simply slipped to her knees, unzipped his pants, and taken him into her mouth. He could have stopped her, but he didn't.

And that had been that.

He had given her the job, breaking his primary rule that he would never have an affair with anyone who worked for him, and one by one, every other rule that he had carefully laid down to keep his extramarital flings manageable and within limits had started to come tumbling down.

She was too young, for a start. He had always sworn that he would only get involved with women close to his own age – mature women able to understand, and abide by, the laws of adultery. Adrienne was barely twenty-two, less than half his age, and if she didn't like a rule, she ignored it.

She called him at home, giving some transparent excuse about work, and then murmured explicit suggestions at him about what they could be doing if he was only there with her, until he was feverish with desire. At first he had turned to Emma, and slaked his needs at home, but as Adrienne introduced him to new, and ever more exotic, pleasures he found himself creating pretexts to go to her when she called.

She demanded he take her out, not to quiet secluded places but to bustling fashionable spots and he capitulated. She set her own timetable for when she would see him, ignoring any commitments he might have elsewhere, and more often than not, he made excuses to fall in with what she wanted.

She touched him, fleetingly but suggestively in public, daring him to brush off her caresses – and he didn't dare, for fear of losing her, and the heady, dizzy feeling that gripped him.

And, with just a closed door, not even a lock, between him and total exposure, she laid herself on the rimu top of his desk, pulling him onto her, and into her, and enfolding him in sensuality, so that his horror was swamped in excitement.

Since Adrienne came into it, his life was completely out of control, and he wasn't even sure he wanted to rein it in.

"How's your wife?" She asked, a finger running provocatively up and down the neck of the wine bottle on the table.

"I don't want to talk about my wife, Adrienne."

"I do."

"She's fine. Everything's fine. Change the subject please. Now." His eyes were fixed on the fingers as they curled themselves snugly around the deep green glass, the thumb caressing it idly, but his voice was steely. He would not talk about Emma with Adrienne, not ever. Just thinking about his wife when he was with the younger woman made him feel base, knowing how deep the betrayal and disloyalty went this time.

It made him feel like an addict, high on the cheap intoxication of the girl, paying for his fix with what rightfully belonged to Emma.

Suddenly, as if sensing the change in his mood, Adrienne released the bottle, and stood up, quickly.

"Pay the bill," she ordered, her voice loud, "and take me home. I'd rather fuck than eat."

Several heads turned sharply to look at them, and Gavin could barely stifle a surge of hot anger at being turned into an exhibition. His lips tight, he hustled her to the door, throwing down more than enough money to cover the bill at the cash desk, and then propelled her towards the car.

"Can't you show some discretion?" he snapped.

"I don't need to be discreet," she retorted, "I'm not married, remember. You are."

And then she moved closer and pressed herself against him, kissing him desperately and violently.

"Don't be angry with me for wanting you, Gavin" she whispered, huskily, tracing around the rim of his ear with a long fingernail, "I can't help it."

And he was lost again, helpless against her flagrant eroticism and his body's reaction to it. He flung himself into the car and drove swiftly, carelessly, back to her house – the house he paid for, carefully disguised within the company's account books. A small well-appointed home in a leafy suburb, next to a quiet church , far too expensive for a secretary's pocket. The original idea had been that this would be their primary meeting place, discreet and comfortable, and that she would think herself too lucky to complain. Things hadn't worked out that way, maybe, but this was still their place to be together, and to be as wild and noisy as they chose.

Tonight was as wild as it had ever been. They were both struggling out of their clothes before the door swung shut and then they were on each other, hungrily devouring flesh as if it offered them more sustenance than their abandoned food. There was no gentleness, no mercy, only frenzy and fire, urgency and need.

Her cries were shrill and piercing, his harsh, as they found release, and clung together, trembling, afterward. He lay a while, then disentangled himself from her grasp, dressed, and walked to the window.

Looking out over the graveyard and the church, he broke his last rule but one. "I love you, Adrienne," he said, not turning to look at her, and see the effect of the words. "God help me, but I love you so much."

He walked back to the bed, where she sprawled like a broken doll, just as he had left her, silent. He bent and kissed her deeply, before he murmured, "I have to go, I've got an early start in the morning. I'll see you tomorrow afternoon."

When he got home, the answering machine was flashing, a livid red beacon. He pressed the button.


"This is Dr. Rumanga at Greenlane Hospital, Mr. Barclay, please call as soon as possible. My number is…."


"Gavin, it's Adrienne. I love you too. I love you, and I want you, and I'll be thinking of you every moment till I see you again."

He couldn't suppress a smile as he dialled the Doctor's number. No doubt there was a delay in the scan, he thought fleetingly as his mind drifted back to Adrienne and how young and open her voice had sounded.

"Dr. Rumanga? Gavin Barclay. You asked me to call."

"Ah, yes. Mr Barclay. I, um… I have some bad news for you."

"Has the scan been cancelled?"

"No. It's your wife Mr Barclay. She suffered an aneurysm this evening, a burst blood vessel in her brain. It was very quick…"

He sat, heavily, in the chair beside the telephone.

"Are you telling me that Emma is dead?"

"I'm very sorry, Mr Barclay, very, very sorry."

He hung up the phone, cutting off the doctors protestations, waiting for tears to come, trying to pull his wife's face into his mind and feel something real at the thought of life without her. Instead, all he could see was hungry blue eyes and pale skin, and black hair swirling around a young face, the lips moist and parted, breathing deeply in satiated lust. All he could hear was a girlish voice saying "I love you too."

He imagined a life dining on nothing but crème brûlée

The thought sickened him.

Cardamom crème brûlée

There are some cats out there who think vanilla is the only flavoring that should come anywhere near crème brûlée. I pity them.

It was 2:30am the other day when I decided some crème brûlée would be nice, so I ran down to the corner store and picked up a pint of cream and some eggs and returned home to whip up a batch real quick. As I was reaching for the vanilla extract (vanilla beans are difficult to come by after midnight in this town), I spied a jar of cardamom in the background, and said to myself, "Hey!, I bet that would taste really great!", cardamom being my favorite spice and all. So instead of the vanilla, into the pot went half a teaspoon of ground black cardamom. It turned out even better than I had hoped. Here are the details:



In a one quart saucepan, heat the cream to just below boiling. Whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar to until smooth. Stir about half the hot cream into yolks to temper, then add this mixture back to the saucepan, and add a pinch of salt. Cook this mixture over a low flame, stirring constantly, until it begins to thicken and coats the spoon. Strain into ramekins or other oven-proof crockery, and bake in a water bath at 300°F until set around the edges, about 40 minutes. Allow to cool, then chill for several hours. Before serving, sprinkle with sugar and caramelize the tops with a blowtorch in the usual manner. This goes well with a nice Sauterne or, even better, a four puttonyo Tokay.

Ok, I used pre-ground cardamom from a jar, but do as I say, not as I do. Fresh cardamom tastes far better. If you want to avoid black flecks and the possiblity of any grittiness in your brûlée you can add whole cardamom seeds at the end of cooking and stir for several minutes before straining the seeds out. You'll probably need at least a teaspoon, maybe more, of whole seeds for the same level of flavor. I'm sure this recipe would work for the no-bake method in sunpig's writeup as well.

I will probably cop a bit of flak over this recipe, as it is far from traditional, but after plenty of procrastination as well as some encouragement from an interested party, I have decided to throw it into the ring.

So what makes this brûlée different from the recipes above? Well first of all it is a no bake recipe. Baked Crème brûlée is all very well, but it has a certain texture. It is reasonably dense, somewhat akin to crème caramel. On the other hand, no bake versions that have egg as the only setting agent tread a fine line. They can easily be too eggy and set to a nice texture, or use less eggs and end up too thin. This version uses the aid of *GASP* - gelatine.

This is the most decadent of desserts; a well-made version is like inviting angels into your mouth. The use of a tiny bit of gelatine not only makes this recipe texturally orgasmic, but it also slightly easier to make, and more consistent.

There are a few important things to remember. It is essential that you use leaf gelatine sheets for this recipe, and good quality leaves too. Gelatine powder gives inconsistent and sometimes lumpy results. If you cant find gelatine sheets, try one of the above recipes. In addition, this recipe is not set in ramekins like the others; it is cooled down and set in a large, single bowl. You spoon it out into individual portions just as you are about to serve. The idea behind this is to gently whip the brûlée mixture as you serve to lighten it up a little and get the texture just right.


  • 6 eggs yolks
  • 600 ml (2 1/2 cups) cream (35 % butterfat)
  • 1 sheet good quality gelatine
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split down the middle
  • Extra caster sugar
  • Method

    Place the yolks and 1/3 cup of sugar into a large bowl and whisk until combined. Place the cream and vanilla bean in a saucepan and gently bring to the simmer. Just before it boils, remove from the heat and pour into the yolk mixture and immediately begin to whisk, combining the mixture. Be quick at this point, as you don't want the hot cream to curdle the eggs.

    Return this mixture to the rinsed out saucepan and set over gentle heat. Stir continuously until the custard is cooked. You can tell when it is cooked by lifting the stirring spoon out of the mixture. When done, the custard will coat the spoon. Alternatively if you own a sugar thermometer the custard is cooked at 86° C.

    Soak the gelatine sheet in a little cold water until it is pliable. This will take about 30 seconds. Lift out the gelatine sheet and squeeze out any excess moisture. Add the sheet to the hot custard and stir well to dissolve. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl or Tupperware container and allow to cool.

    Once the custard is completely cool press a sheet of cling wrap on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin forming. Place in the refrigerator and allow to set. The recipe can be made to this stage up to 2 days in advance.

    When ready to serve, gently but thoroughly beat the mixture to lighten it up a little, and then spoon into 4 - 6 small ramekins. You want to make sure it reaches right to the rim so the toffee crust cooks properly. Place a generous amount of caster sugar in a sieve and shake over the ramekins. You want a thorough and even covering so the top caramelises completely.

    You now have 4 options on how to caramelise the top of the brûlée

    1. A brûlée iron
    2. A large metal kitchen spoon
    3. A gas blowtorch
    4. A griller/broiler

    A brûlée iron is a fairly expensive kitchen tool. It is a long handled instrument with a thick iron disc, 5 cm in diameter on one end. This disc is place directly onto a gas flame and heated to an incendiary level, then placed directly onto the sugar creating an instant toffee coating. If you don't have one of these, you can replicate the same effect by using a large metal serving spoon. They don't hold heat like a brûlée iron will, so you will need to heat the spoon after each use.

    When using this method, remember to always hold the iron or spoon with a tea towel and remove all non-essential people from the kitchen, lest they be branded. It also pays to open a window as the melting sugar creates a fair bit of smoke. Gently place the iron or spoon onto the sugar and keep it moving across the whole surface so as not to burn a particular area. Obviously this method only works if you have a gas stovetop.

    A blowtorch can be used as well if you own one. Keep the tip of the flame right on the sugar, as you want it to caramelise before the custard melts.

    A grill or broiler is the least desirable method, as they can rarely generate the heat needed to caramelise the top before the custard melts. If it your only option, make sure you pre-heat your grill to its highest setting and place the ramekins as close to the heat as possible.

    Whatever method you choose, if the caramel starts to go black, or acrid, bitter smells are emitted, stop caramelising at once. Burnt sugar tastes foul.

    This is almost the complete dessert, I would only suggest fresh fruit as an accompaniment, perhaps raspberries. Poached strawberries are also a yummy partner. Because this dessert is so rich, an extremely decadent wine is the only possible tipple. A botrytis affected Semillon is the best choice. In Australia try De Bortoli Noble One, or if you are feeling flush, an aged Château D'Yquem would make it a night to remember.

    This is my grandfather's recipe for crème brûlée (a French custard with burnt sugar on top). While it is similar to other recipes here it, differs a bit. This is for a traditional vanilla flavored crème brûlée. For a similar desert in coffee, chocolate or other flavors you may want to make pots de creme.

    1. Scald cream.

    2. Lightly beat together egg yolks and sugar.

    3. Slowly pour cream into egg mixture, stirring constantly. (If you pour too quickly it will cook the yolks.)

    4. Add vinilla

    5. Pour into baking dish, set in a pan of hot water.

    6. Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees) for 1 hour or until a silver knife comes out clean.

    7. Sprinkle top with brown sugar (about 5 T), and place under broiler until sugar melts and forms a glaze. Watch closely and leave broiler door open.

    8. Serve ice cold.

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