Crème brûlée (/ /; French pronunciation: [kʁɛm bʁy.le]), also known as burnt cream or Trinity cream, 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 custard producing a cool center. The custard base is traditionally flavored with vanilla, but can have a variety of other flavorings.
|Alternative names||Burnt cream, Trinity cream, crema catalana, Cambridge burnt cream|
|Place of origin||France or Spain or England|
|Serving temperature||Room temperature|
|Main ingredients||Cream, sugar, egg or egg yolks, vanilla|
The earliest known recipe for crème brûlée appears in François Massialot's 1691 cookbook Cuisinier royal et bourgeois. The name "burnt cream" was used in the 1702 English translation. 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. 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".
Crème brûlée was not very common in French and English cookbooks of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It became extremely popular in the 1980s, "a symbol of that decade's self-indulgence and the darling of the restaurant boom", 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".
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. 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 incorporate the cream, with vanilla following once the custard is off the heat. Likewise, 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 achieved, the mixture is dished into ramekins and the ramekins are placed into a bain-marie. Hot/boiling water is poured into the large pan holding the ramekins until it reaches halfway up the sides; the pan is then placed into an oven until the custard center is jiggly and the edges set. Pulling the crème brûlée out at this point ensures a creamy dessert.
- Alan Davidson (21 August 2014). The Oxford Companion to Food. OUP Oxford. pp. 230–. ISBN 978-0-19-104072-6.
- The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets. Oxford University Press. 1 April 2015. pp. 383–. ISBN 978-0-19-931362-4.
- Jane Grigson (1 January 1985). Jane Grigson's British Cookery. Atheneum.
- 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.
- Darra Goldstein, ed., The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, 2015, ISBN 0199313393, s.v. 'Crème brûlée'
- 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.
- 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.
- Sirio Maccioni, Peter Elliot, Sirio: The Story of my Life and Le Cirque, 2004, ISBN 0471204560, p. 216
- Cloake, Felicity (19 September 2012). "How to cook perfect creme brulee". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
- "Vanilla-bean creme brulee". www.taste.com.au. 2010-11-25. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
- "Origin of Crème Brûlée", Petits Propos Culinaires 31:61 (March 1989).