Crème brûlée

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Crème brûlée
2014 0531 Crème brûlée Doi Mae Salong.jpg
Alternative namesBurned cream, Burnt cream, Trinity cream, crema catalana, Cambridge burnt cream
Place of originFrance or Spain or England
Serving temperatureRoom temperature
Main ingredientsCream, sugar, egg or egg yolks, vanilla

Crème brûlée (/ˌkrɛm brˈl/; French pronunciation: ​[kʁɛm bʁy.le]), also known as burned cream, burnt cream, Trinity cream, or crema catalana,[1] is a dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a texturally contrasting 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 or with cinnamon and lemon in Catalan cuisine, but can have other flavorings. It is sometimes garnished with fruit.


The earliest known recipe for crème brûlée appears in François Massialot's 1691 cookbook Cuisinier royal et bourgeois.[2][3] The name "burnt cream" was used in the 1702 English translation.[4] In 1740, Massialot referred to a similar recipe as crême à l'Angloise; 'English cream'.

The dish then vanished from French cookbooks until the 1980s.[2] A version of crème brûlée (known locally as "Trinity Cream" or "Cambridge burnt cream") was introduced at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1879 with the college arms "impressed on top of the cream with a branding iron".[1]

Crème brûlée was uncommon in French and English cookbooks of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.[5] It became extremely popular in the 1980s, "a symbol of that decade's self-indulgence and the darling of the restaurant boom",[6][7] 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".[5][8]


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 salamander broiler or with a butane torch.[9] Two styles exist to make crème brûlée. The common format is to create a "hot" custard, traditionally by whisking egg yolks in a double boiler with sugar and incorporating the cream, adding vanilla once the custard is removed from the heat.[10] Alternatively, this can be achieved by tempering the egg yolk/sugar mixture with hot cream, then adding vanilla at the end. There also exists a "cold" method, wherein the egg yolks and sugar are whisked together until the mixture reaches ribbon stage. Then, cold heavy cream is whisked into the yolk mixture followed by vanilla. After the custard is composed, the mixture is poured into ramekins which are placed into a bain-marie. Hot/boiling water is poured into the pan holding the ramekins until it reaches halfway up the sides; the pan is then placed into an oven until the custard center is semi-soft and the edges set. Removing the crème brûlée at this point ensures a creamy dessert.

Crema catalana[edit]

In Catalan cuisine, crema catalana ("Catalan cream") or crema cremada ("burnt cream"), is a dish "virtually identical" to crème brûlée.[6] The first known recipe for crema catalana appears in the Catalan cookbooks Llibre de Sent Soví (14th century)[11][page needed] and Llibre del Coch (16th century),[12][page needed] three centuries before the French came up with crème brûlée. The recipe included a custard cream, over which sugar was poured and subsequently burnt with a hot iron rod, creating the characteristic burnt crust. Some differences include the cooking method and subsequent consistency; the French give aroma with cream and vanilla, while the Catalan do so with milk, cinnamon and lemon zest.[7]

Analogous recipes appear in 17th century Spanish cookery books, usually under the name of Cream of Saint Joseph ("Crema de san José"), since it was a traditional dessert served during Saint Joseph's Day, although nowadays it is consumed throughout the year. The burnt sugar topping is documented in 1770.[13] The recipe was referred to as crema catalana (Catalan cream) for the first time by the Spanish friar Juan de Altamiras in his 1745 cookbook, where the recipe was said to be of Catalan origin.[13] However, there are claims that Juan de Altamiras got his recipe during his stay in the Portuguese city of Monsaraz, Alentejo in his youth.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Alan Davidson (21 August 2014). The Oxford Companion to Food. OUP Oxford. pp. 230–. ISBN 978-0-19-104072-6.
  2. ^ a b The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets. Oxford University Press. 1 April 2015. pp. 383–. ISBN 978-0-19-931362-4.
  3. ^ Jane Grigson (1 January 1985). Jane Grigson's British Cookery. Atheneum.
  4. ^ Harold McGee (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.
  5. ^ a b Darra Goldstein, ed., The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, 2015, ISBN 0199313393, s.v. 'Crème brûlée'
  6. ^ a b Colman Andrews (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.
  7. ^ a b Richard Sax (9 November 2010). Classic Home Desserts: A Treasury of Heirloom and Contemporary Recipes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 149–. ISBN 0-547-50480-2.
  8. ^ Sirio Maccioni, Peter Elliot, Sirio: The Story of my Life and Le Cirque, 2004, ISBN 0471204560, p. 216
  9. ^ Cloake, Felicity (19 September 2012). "How to cook perfect creme brulee". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  10. ^ "Vanilla-bean creme brulee". 2010-11-25. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  11. ^ Llibre de Sent Soví, Llibre de totes maneres de potatges de menjar', a cura de Rudolf Grewe. Edició revisada per Amadeu J. Soberanas i Joan Santanach. 'Llibre de totes maneres de confits', edició crítica de Joan Santanach i Suñol. Barcelona, Barcino (Els nostres clàssics, B 22) / Lluís Cifuentes i Comamala
  12. ^ El convit del Tirant, Jaume Fàbrega, Pages Editors, 2007. ISBN 978-84-9779-520-3
  13. ^ a b Nuevo arte de la cocina española. Ariel. 1 October 2017. p. 493. ISBN 978-84-344-2530-9.


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

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