Crème brûlée is a classic French dessert that consists of rich custard topped with a thin layer of caramelized sugar. The sharp snap of shattering hard sugar as the spoon breaks the surface and digs into the smooth custard is one of its greatest pleasures. These salted butterscotch crème brûlées are made with caramelized brown sugar for a traditional butterscotch flavor. A small addition of fine sea salt helps to balance out the sweetness of the custard and allows the flavor to shine. It’s ideal for special occasions as it can be prepared in advance. The custard can be baked and stored in the refrigerator for a few days before serving. However, it also makes for a comforting weeknight indulgence on those cloudy days and cooler nights. A water bath is used to bake these custards to ensure even heating. A teakettle of boiling water works well for pouring into the prepared baking sheet. When adding the hot water, first place the baking sheet into the oven and leave it slightly pulled out from the oven rack. Carefully pour in the hot water and gently push the sheet further into the oven. Also, since this recipe requires caramelizing sugar, be sure to have everything ready to go before beginning the process. Sugar cooks quickly, and it’s important to stay near the pot to prevent it from burning.
6 (five-ounce) servings
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Arrange ramekins on a large rimmed baking sheet.
- In a medium saucepan, combine heavy cream, milk, and fine sea salt. Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat to low to keep warm.
- Melt butter in medium saucepan and stir in brown sugar. Over medium-high heat, bring mixture to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. The sugar will begin to caramelize and turn dark amber in color and become fragrant.
- Remove from heat and immediately whisk cream into the caramel mixture until smooth. Do this carefully and gradually, as the hot mixture will bubble up vigorously when the cream is added.
- Whisk together egg yolks and vanilla extract in a large bowl. While whisking continuously, slowly stream the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks until combined. Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl or large measuring cup. Carefully pour or ladle custard into each ramekin until full.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven and pour hot water into the pan until it fills halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until edges are set and centers jiggle slightly when gently prodded.
- Remove baking sheet from oven and place on cooling rack. Let cool for 10 minutes, then remove ramekins from water bath and continue to let cool. Transfer ramekins to refrigerator and let chill for at least 4 hours. Crème brûlée can be stored, wrapped, for up to three days in refrigerator.
- To serve, sprinkle each of the custards with one tablespoon of sugar. Using a kitchen torch, melt the sugar until caramelized and golden. Sprinkle with fine sea salt and serve immediately.
Recipe by Teresa Floyd
Teresa Floyd is a Kansas City-based pastry chef, freelance photographer, and food writer. Her work has been featured on Food52, TODAY Food, Feast Magazine-Midwest, Edible Kansas City, and is an editor for the online cooking publication feedfeed. She is also the creator of Now, Forager—a pastry blog featuring seasonal pastries and confections. Visit her at now-forager.com and on Instagram @now_forager.