Crème Brûlée for Two

A downsized version of the French Classic, this Crème brûlée recipe features a fool-proof method for getting that burnt sugar topping even if you don't have a kitchen torch.

Because my kitchen is so small, I rarely buy specialty tools or dishes.  I don't own a garlic press. I only recently bough a funnel. And sadly, a kitchen torch is not in the cards for me right now.

It's not that I don't covet these items. But when I'm standing in the kitchen aisles (or let's be real, browsing Amazon) I try to visual a new home for anything I'm considering buying.  If my brain can't find a place in the overcrowded drawers and cabinets, it's just not happening.

But the torch is something that I particularly look forward to when I design my dream chef's kitchen...in about a million years.  There are just so many things you can do with them, from toasting marshmallow toppings to browning meringues to, of course, crème brûlée.

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But thanks to Mary Berry, I've discovered a classic method for brûléeing a perfectly burnt sugar lids, even sans torch.  Of course, if you have one, fire it up by all means.  But if you don't, well, here's good news of great joy for you.  You just have to cook down sugar, let it cool and harden before blitzing in the blender, then sprinkle the find powder over your custard to brûlée under your broiler. Apparently, it's the classic way to make this iconic dish.  Who knew?

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I also discovered that most crème brûlée recipes make 6 or 8 ramekins of custard, but I wanted to make something that's perfect for two.  Date night in maybe, or just a way to fancy up your weekend Netflix and chill.  Or let's be real, Something that you can eat now and save one for later? We don't have to throw a dinner party to make a special, fancy dessert, right?  And this definitely qualifies as both.

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Crème Brûlée for Two

Recipe by Rebecca Neidhart
Makes 2 Crème Brûlées
Active Time: 

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 6 Tbsp. whole milk
  • 2 inches of vanilla bean pod, or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • To Brulee without a Torch:
  • 5 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • 1 Tbsp. corn syrup

To Make the Custard:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and set a rack in the middle of the oven.  

In a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream and milk. If you are using the vanilla bean, slit open the portion of vanilla bean pod with a sharp knife and scrape out the seeds.  Stir into the cream and milk along with the pod and bring to a light boil.  Turn off heat and remove the bean pod. 

In a medium sized bowl, stir the granulated sugar into the egg yolks.  Very slowly pour the hot milk and cream into the eggs while beating until it is all combined. Add the vanilla extract if using.

Divide the mixture into 2 8 oz. ramekins and place in a small baking dish.  Place the baking dish onto the shelf in the oven, then pour the cold water into the dish until the ramekins are half way submerged.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the creme is set on the outside but still a little wobbly in the middle.

Refrigerate until completely chilled and set, about four hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator and using a paper towel gently blot up any condensation that may have formed on the top of the custard.  

Instructions for Brûléeing with a Torch:

Sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar evenly over the top of each of the custards. Turn the flame of the torch on and move it across the top of the sugar until it has all melted and browned.  You can repeat this step to create a thicker layer of burnt sugar.  Allow the melted sugar to cool and harden, then serve immediately.

Instructions for Brûléeing without a Torch:

Grease a small baking pan. In a small saucepan, combine the 5 Tbsp of sugar with water and corn syrup.  Stir together over medium heat. Once the sugar is beginning to dissolve, stop stirring and swirl the pan around once or twice a minute.  The mixture will bubble and begin to turn a golden color around the edges.  It is ready when it is a light amber.

Pour the melted sugar onto the greased baking pan, then allow it to harden and cool.  BE VERY CAREFUL when working with melted sugar, as it can cause serious burns.

 Just before finishing the crème brûlées, break up the hardened sugar into small chunks and place in a food processor or blender.  Pulse a few times until it has become a fairly fine powder.

Sprinkle a layer of the sugar powder over the tops of each of the custards, then place them on a clean baking sheet underneath the heat.  The sugar will start to melt, then the edges will begin to darken and burn.  You can continue to cook until you've reached the desired level of darkness.

Allow the melted sugar to cool and harden, then serve immediately.