Crème Brûlée

Opt for a classic crème brûlée or try the fancier almond crackle version

Credit: Ryan Szulc

Opt for a classic crème brûlée or try the fancier almond crackle version

Create some comfort this winter by whipping up a batch of decadent crème brûlées from Anna Olson’s new book, Back to Baking, to share with friends and family

Go for the classic crème brûlée topped with crispy caramelized sugar topping the creamy custard underneath. Or try Olson’s equally appealing twist on tradition, flavoured with maple syrup and decked with crunchy almond crackle.

Classic Vanilla Crème Brûlée

A good crème brûlée is a beautifully simple thing, and the ingredient ratio in this recipe blends richness (without it being too heavy) and a nice set (without it being too eggy). In two words: just right. And it’s gluten-free.


  • 2½ cups (625 ml) whipping cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, or 1 tbsp (15 ml) vanilla
  • bean paste
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 6 tbsp (90 ml) sugar, plus extra for torching


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F (160 C). Place six 6-ounce (180-ml) ramekins into a baking dish with a lip the same height as or taller than the ramekins.

  2. Heat 2 cups (500 ml) of the cream with the scraped vanilla seeds and the vanilla bean (or the vanilla bean paste) to just below a simmer. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and remaining ½ cup (125 ml) of the cream. Slowly whisk the hot cream into the yolk mixture until blended.

  3. Divide this evenly between the ramekins, and if there any bubbles on the surface of the custards, use the edge of a paper towel to touch them and pull them away (a smooth top to the custards is the goal).
  4. Pour boiling water around the ramekins to halfway up the sides, and bake for about 25 minutes, until the outside of the custards are set but the centre still has a little jiggle to it. Cool the custards for 15 minutes in the water bath, then remove them to cool to room temperature before chilling for at least 4 hours.
  5. To serve the brûlées, sprinkle the tops of each of the custards with a thin layer of sugar, then carefully melt and caramelize the sugar using a kitchen torch. Add a second thin layer of sugar and repeat – this technique builds a crunchy top that is less likely to burn than if you put on a thick layer of sugar.

Makes 6 individual crème brûlées.

Maple Crème with Almond Crackle

The subtle sweetness of maple really adds a nice touch to this crème brûlée, which is also gluten-free. This is a lighter version of the original crème brûlée, using half-and-half cream and milk instead of whipping cream, but it still has a satisfyingly creamy end result. The step of burning the tops of the desserts is skipped, since a maple-coated almond crackle adds that signature crunchy top layer.


  • 1¼ cups (310 ml) half-and-half cream
  • ¾ cup (185 ml) milk
  • ⅔ cup (160 ml) pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla extract
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 recipe Nut Crackle (almond) (see below)


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F (160 C). Arrange four 6-ounce (180-ml) ramekins or other baking dishes in a larger baking dish that has sides that are at least the height of the ramekins.
  2. Whisk all of the ingredients together (except the crackle) and pour them into the prepared ramekins.
  3. Pour boiling water around the ramekins so that the water comes up to about two-thirds of the height of the ramekins.
  4. Bake the crèmes between 35 and 45 minutes, until they are set around the outside but still jiggle a bit at the centre. Allow the custards to cool in the water-filled pan for 10 minutes, then carefully remove them from the water to cool to room temperature before chilling for at least 4 hours.
  5. The crackle can be prepared while the crèmes are in the oven. To serve, break the crackle into pieces and place them on top of the crèmes immediately before serving. The brûlées will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Makes 4 individual crème brûlées.

Nut Crackle

Makes about ½ cup (125 ml). Enough to garnish 1 cake or tart, or 6 individual desserts.


  • ⅓ cup (80 ml) sliced or chopped nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, or pecans)
  • 3 tbsp (45 ml) pure maple syrup


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F (160 C). Line an 8-inch (20-cm) cake pan with aluminum foil and grease it well.
  2. Sprinkle the foil with the nuts, then pour the maple syrup overtop, stirring just slightly. Bake this for about 18 minutes, until the syrup is bubbling vigorously. Let the crackle cool completely, and store at room temperature until ready to serve.

  3. To serve, peel the foil away from the crackle and break it into pieces to use. The crackle will keep in an airtight container for up to a week.

Excerpted from Back to Baking: 200 Timeless Recipes to Bake, Share, and Enjoy by Anna Olson. © 2011 Whitecap Books Ltd. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.