Top | Crème Brûlée

Classic Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée

(recipe, Lou Seibert Pappas)

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The classic crème brûlée has spawned countless flavor variations, yet this refined version is elegant in its simplicity. A vanilla bean is a must for superb flavor; vanilla extract is not an equal substitute.


  1. 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
  2. 1 piece (4 inches long) vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  3. 6 large egg yolks
  4. ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  5. 2 Tbsp. Cognac (optional)
  6. 6 Tbsp. or 12 teaspoons brown sugar (dried out briefly in the oven) or granulated sugar, for topping


  1. Pour the cream into a medium saucepan, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream, and add the vanilla pod. Place over medium heat until small bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Remove the vanilla pod and scrape any remaining seeds into the cream.
  2. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until pale in color. Whisk in the ⅓ cup granulated sugar until dissolved. Gradually whisk in the cream. Stir in the Cognac, if desired.
  4. Place six 5-inch-diameter flan dishes or 6-ounce ovenproof ramekins in a baking pan. Divide the custard mixture among the dishes. Pour warm water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the dishes.
  5. Bake in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the center of each custard still jiggles slightly. Remove from the oven and lift the dishes from the hot water. Let cool briefly, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
  6. When ready to serve, place the dishes on a baking sheet. Evenly sprinkle 1 tablespoon brown or granulated sugar over each flan-sized custard, or 2 teaspoons sugar over each ramekin-sized custard.
  7. Using a hand-held blowtorch, caramelize the sugar by holding the torch about 4 inches from the surface of each custard and moving the torch to brown the sugar evenly. Or, preheat the broiler and place the pan about 4 inches from the heat source; watching carefully, broil until the sugar turns golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. (If the custards have been caramelized under the broiler, refrigerate them for 10 minutes before serving.)