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Creme Brulee - Making it Real

Updated on November 9, 2020

The recipes I'm finding, suggest that I should use heavy whipping cream, vanilla bean, sugar, egg yolk, but all I have to compare with is my memory of the egg custard that grandma used to make upon occasion.

The egg custard that I had last week at a Bar and Grill in St. Paul, Bonners I think was the name. I'll have to ask my sister, or Google it. Their custard was creamy. Their sugar coating was sweet. Grandma used to have a burned sugar coating on hers, that according to my sister, was a disappointment, because it tasted like it was burnt. It's supposed to taste caramelized.

Perhaps I was subjected to the custard after Grandma had her ducks in a row. She may have gotten her browned sugar down to a science by the time I was old enough to eat the custard.

I remember a melted pool of brown sweetness in the middle. The custard would sink in the middle and there was this limpid pool of sugar. I don't recall that it was burned.


  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 cups 2% milk
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/8 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar


  1. heat oven to 350 degrees. Place a small round corningware into a large oval corningware dish.
  2. In round corning ware or pyrex, mix egg yolks, milk, sugar and vanilla.
  3. Fill large oval corningware dish with water, half way up smaller corningware dish.
  4. Place double dish in oven, bake for at least 50 minutes, until knife inserted in custard comes out clean.
  5. Pour brandy on top of custard, add sugar to coat, and light with a match. Let burn and melt the sugar.

Scalded Milk in Other's Recipes

I recall reading to use scalded milk. I digress and wonder what scalding the milk accomplishes. If you are scalding the milk to get rid of the butter fat? Or germs? Or some other unimaginable reason.

Scalding Milk

What does scalding do? According to what I'm reading, scalding isn't necessary any more, since in the past, milk needed to be scalded to be bacteria free, but now with the modern method of pasteurization, scalding is passe.

A Recipe in Mom's Cook Book

Since I never watched Grandma make this dish, I cannot compare her method to others. However, I have the recipe she followed.

Of course, I'm analyzing the recipe as I read it, and I don't like the sound of using gelatine. The recipe uses a double boiler, so this particular method is a stovetop method.

It cannot be the same recipe that grandma stuck to, since hers was in a large, white baking dish. Many recipes call for a pan full of water and the little dishes to be double boiled in the oven.

Alas, just one more recipe that is lost to time and death.

Egg Custard or Creme Brulee or Cream Caramel or Pots de Creme

As I investigate the recipes, I wonder if egg custard and Creme Brulee are the same. The more I read, the more I recognize Cream Caramel as being what I had at grandma's.

The Pots de Creme seems like what I had at the Bar and Grill.

One Pan Method

I put six egg yolks in my Corningware dish. I had three cups of milk, one cup of dark brown sugar, half tablespoon of real Vanilla.

Now, mind you, I did not heat my 2 percent milk, just added it cold.

Whisk until well mixed. Oven was preheating. 350 degrees. Added enough water in the bottom Corning Ware casserole to come up to halfways on the dish with my egg mixture.

The Important Points to Consider

This is, of course, an egg bake. However, with the water surrounding the pan, apparently, the egg doesn't reach a high temperature, since water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, and your oven is set to 350 degrees.

Science. At any rate, I cooked my cold milk concoction for 40 minutes, but decided that length of time wasn't enough. I suppose it's because I didn't start with warmed milk like the other recipes call for. I added an additional 10 minutes. Overall time, 50 minutes. At that point, I tested the custard with a knife, slicing through it to see if it would come out clean. It did, sort of.

Notice the slash marks in my picture. That's from the knife. It doesn't glue back together after you slash it. So, avoid slashing if you want pretty.

Once I took it out of the oven, I had almost an 8th cup of brandy in a measuring cup which I poured across the top of the custard. I sprinkled enough brown sugar across the top to lightly cover, and then, lit a match an caught the brandy on fire.

It was surreal. It was hot, the flame burning across the top of the dish. I could see the sugar melting and there was light bubbling. Then, the fire went out. It was done.

Egg yolk in 2 quart Corning ware
Egg yolk in 2 quart Corning ware
Add milk, sugar and vanilla, whisk until smooth
Add milk, sugar and vanilla, whisk until smooth
add water to large corning ware
add water to large corning ware
bake until knife inserted comes out clean.
bake until knife inserted comes out clean.
Add brandy to top of eggs and sprinkle brown sugar across top of brandy
Add brandy to top of eggs and sprinkle brown sugar across top of brandy
light on fire
light on fire
After fire is out, sample the flavor.
After fire is out, sample the flavor.
Place in bowl.
Place in bowl.
Take a bite! Enjoy!
Take a bite! Enjoy!

An Experiment

This morning, I mixed 4 egg yolks, 3 cups cold heavy whipping cream, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla in a Pyrex, and had it in a bigger Pyrex with water. I was just curious...

Mixed it together. 350 degree oven. Set the timer for 1 hour. Have my shot glass ready with tuaca brandy, and 1/4 cup of brown sugar.

I'm also prepared to drive to my sisters house with it to celebrate a victory of finding the perfect combination.


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