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Life in Rural France

Living the French Dream….The Good, The Bad, and The Hilarious

A creme brulee with blueberries and raspberries sat on a wooden table

Creme Brulee: The Secrets of a Classic French Dessert

I have to say out of all the French desserts I’ve tried Creme Brulee, or Crème Brûlée if using the proper French spelling, is possibly my favourite.

It’s certainly on the menu of most French restaurants I’ve been to and I love it when it’s one of the options of a Café Gourmand (a selection of mini desserts usually served with an espresso).

If you’ve not been following along with my attempts at trying a variety of famous recipes then don’t forget to check out these articles:

All of these, believe it or not, have come out really well. And if I can do it, not being a particularly accomplished cook, then you can too.

In total honesty, desserts and cakes are the things I find the hardest, mainly because you can’t experiment in the same way as you would with a dinner. You have to be precise and follow the recipe, something I’m not very good at.

However, I’ve managed to add my own flair to each one and am really enjoying the process.

There is such a feeling of satisfaction to this whole thing when it actually turns out the way it should.

Where did Creme Brulee originate from?

A ramekin with creme brulee with a spoon sat on brown material

Well, it depends on who you ask. The French, English and Spanish all claim to be the originators of the dessert we know as Creme Brulee.

Apparently, there is a reference to a custard dessert that had caramelised sugar on top that was burnt with an iron, dating back to the 15th century in England. 

Then of course we have the Spanish Crema Catalana that has been around since the Middle Ages.

However, as the name itself is French, I’m happy to give this one to France.

The story goes that it was François Massialot who discovered the dessert when visiting Perpignan. 

As chef to Philippe d’Orléans, the brother of Louis XIV, François made the dessert for him on his return to Paris. 

The dessert got cold before he was able to serve so he tried to warm it up using a hot iron which then burnt the sugar on top. Et Voilà, the first French version of Crème Brûlée.

It appeared in François Massialot’s 1691 cookbook Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois. 

How to pronounce Crème Brûlée

Unlike many words in French, this one is actually quite easy to pronounce – “krem bruh-lay.”

What is a traditional French Crème Brûlée?

Crème Brûlée, which translates to “burnt cream”, is such a simple dessert. It’s a delicious combination of cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla, aka custard. It’s the caramelised sugar on top that really sets it apart.

And the best bit, it was actually quite easy to make, although there were a few steps that required time in between so not a quick dessert. My advice is to make it the day before you want to eat it as you’ll want to refrigerate it overnight.

Is Crème Brûlée served warm?

Someone holding a kitchen blow torch on a creme brulee to caramelise the sugar

The best way to eat Creme Brulee is with the top part, the caramelised sugar, warm and the rest of the dessert at room temperature.

I popped a couple of raspberries on top of mine to finish it off.

How to make Creme Brulee

Don’t be intimated by this dessert. If like me you think it must be really hard because all French restaurants serve it, then forget that thought right now. It’s a lot easier than you think.

The main thing is to make sure you set aside some time and don’t rush it. However, if you don’t have time to put it in the fridge overnight, try and allow at least 4 hours in there to allow it to set.

The main tool I needed for this, which I didn’t have already, was a little kitchen blow torch. It wasn’t expensive and was easy to find in my local Leclerc supermarket. Alternatively, you can put it under a really hot grill for 45-60 seconds. If you go this way, you’ll want to put it back in the fridge for about 30 minutes before serving as the custard goes warm under the grill, unlike with a blow torch.

The other thing that’s worth noting is to go with vanilla bean rather than paste or essence as it really makes a difference to the taste.

And finally, you’ll four ramekins to cook and serve your dessert in. Don’t worry too much about having those shallow dishes you see in recipes. I used standard ramekins and filled them just over halfway. 

You should have about 500ml of the mixture to pour in. And to avoid mess, I poured everything into a milk jug and then poured it into the ramekins.

A picture on a green background of ngredients for a creme brulee


500 ml of heavy cream (crème entière)

1 Vanilla bean

5 egg yolks (jaune d’œuf)

40g caster sugar (sucre en poudre)

2 tsp brown sugar


Step 1 – Preheat oven to 130°C/265°F (120°C fan). 

Step 2 – Split your vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the beans with a small knife. Put both the beans and the empty pod into a saucepan and add the cream. Simmer on a low heat for 8-10 minutes

Step 3 – Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it sit with the lid on for about an hour to allow the vanilla bean to really infuse into the cream.

Step 4 – Boil a kettle of water and put four ramekins into a tray. Something similar to what you’d roast potatoes in but not too big.

Step 5 – Separate your egg yolks and put them into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add your sugar and mix them together. Don’t whip into a frenzy otherwise, you’ll get foam. Gently does it.

Step 6 – Pour your mixture equally into the four ramekin dishes. Then pour the boiling water into the pan so it comes up no more than halfway on the sides of the ramekins. We don’t want them to float we just want them to sit in the water. This step is called a water bath – quite fitting really.

Step 7 – Bake for between 45-60 minutes. If you’re using milk and cream combination like I did, it will be nearer to 55 minutes. The key is to give them the tap test. Gently tap one of the ramekins and if it has a slight wobble to it then it’s done. That’s the tap test.

Step 8 – Remove the ramekins from the water bath as we don’t want them to continue cooking. Leave them to cool and then refrigerate overnight.

Step 9 – When you’re ready to serve remove them from the fridge and bring them to room temperature.

Step 10 – Sprinkle ½ a teaspoon of brown sugar on top of each ramekin and grab your blow torch. 45-60 seconds should do it. Once caramelised it’s ready to serve. As a garnish try a couple of blueberries, two or three raspberries and a dusting of icing sugar.

Two ramekins with creme brulee topped with blueberries

The perfect creme brulee should be similar to a nice thick yoghurt. It shouldn’t be like cutting a cake but it shouldn’t be runny either.


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About Me

I’m Kylie….

And I live in the beautiful Charente region of France having made the move back in 2016, and I’ve never looked back.

Now, I’m sharing everything I’ve learned about living in rural France. From visiting wineries & chateaux to negotiating French admin and learning the language.


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