Classic Parisian Bistro Crème Brûlée
Classic Parisian Bistro Crème Brûlée

Classic Parisian Bistro Crème Brûlée

Back in the 17th century François Massialot, chef de cuisine to various illustrious personages, was credited with inventing the crème brûlée, in which the ‘burnt’ sugar topping was melted with a red-hot fire shovel. This classic creamy, Parisian bistro dessert is a firm favourite, providing it’s not adulterated with things like fruit or chocolate – it’s all about thick, vanilla-infused custard and glossy shards of crunchy sugar. The easiest way to caramelise the sugar topping is with a chef’s blowtorch but, if you don’t have one, the alternative is to place the ramekins as near to the heat as possible under a very hot grill – but keep your eye on them. And do remember to leave them to sit for a while in order to let the top harden and the ramekins cool down.

Serves 6


600 ml (20 fl oz) double (heavy) cream
2 fat vanilla pods
8 egg yolks
30 g (1 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
6 tablespoons soft brown sugar


Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3. Pour the cream into a saucepan with a lid. Split the vanilla pods lengthways and scrape the seeds into the cream and then add the pods. Bring just to the boil and simmer for a few minutes, then turn off the heat and pop on the lid. Leave to infuse for 15 minutes.

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar in a large heatproof bowl until pale and creamy. Bring the cream back to boiling point, fish out the vanilla pods, then add the egg mixture. Turn down the heat and constantly whisk until the mixture starts to thicken and you have a smooth, custard-like consistency. It mustn’t boil otherwise the eggs will curdle.

Pour into six 150 ml (5 fl oz) ovenproof ramekins until two-thirds full. Sit the ramekins in a bain-marie – a large roasting tray at least 8 cm (3 inches) deep – and pour in enough hot water to come three-quarters of the way up the sides of the ramekins. Place on the middle shelf of the oven and cook for 35–40 minutes until the crème brûlées are set but a bit wobbly in the middle.

Remove from the water and allow to cool before placing them in the fridge. An hour before you’re ready to serve, sprinkle one level tablespoon of brown sugar over the surface of each one, then caramelise either with a blowtorch or under a very fierce preheated grill until golden and bubbling. Leave to cool for a few minutes, and then pop back in the fridge until dessert time.

Recipe from Sweet Paris: A love affair with Parisian pastries, chocolates and desserts by Michael Paul. Published by Hardie Grant

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