Crème brulée

When a friend generously gave me some saffron recently, it presented me with an opportunity to make crème brulée with a little extra magic in it. crème brulée is ridiculously easy to make, exudes classic style, and even has an element of danger about it… so even if (like me) you rarely eat dessert, what’s not to like?


6 helpings.


  • 375ml double cream.
  • 375ml milk.
  • 1 vanilla bean pod (scored).
  • Pinch saffron (optional).
  • 8 egg yolks.
  • 120g caster sugar (+ extra for the topping).


  1. preheat the oven to 175c.
  2. Put the cream, milk, vanilla bean pod and saffron in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and leave for 10/15 minutes for the flavours to infuse.
  3. Mix the caster sugar and egg yolks together. Don’t whisk too hard though – there is no need to add air to the mixture.
  4. Remove the vanilla pod from the saucepan, open the pod and scrape the vanilla beans back into the cream/milk mixture. Add the cream/milk to the eggs and mix well to form the crème.
  5. Divide the crème between six ramakin dishes. Place them in a roasting tray, then pour hot water into the tray so it comes about half-way up the side of the ramakins.
  6. Cover the tray with foil, then cook the crèmes for about 35/40 minutes. They’re done when the crème is almost set, but still has a slight wobble in the middle.
  7. Remove the ramakins from the tray and set aside to cool briefly. Cover the ramakins and put them in the fridge for at least a couple of hours (overnight is fine).
  8. About an hour before serving, take the crèmes out of the fridge to bring them up to room temperature.
  9. Sprinkle a thin layer of caster sugar on top of each crème. Use a blow-torch to completely melt (brulèe) the sugar.
  10. Wait a few moments for the sugar to harden and crisp, and the ramakin dishes to cool down slightly before serving.


If you don’t have a blow-torch you can use a grill. Heat it to the highest possible setting (it’s important that it’s as hot as possible so the sugar melts without heating up the crème underneath), then place the ramakins under the grill and watch carefully until the sugar has melted.

You can use cinnamon instead of vanilla (technically this makes it a crema catalana, the Spanish version of a crème brulée). Just put half a cinnamon stick in with the cream/milk (removing it before mixing with the eggs).

You can use vanilla bean paste if you can’t get hold of a vanilla bean pod. It’s also possible to use vanilla extract, but that can add an artificial flavour to the taste if you’re not careful.

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