Crème brûlée or crème brulée, also known as burned cream, burnt cream or Trinity cream, and virtually identical to the original crema catalana, is a dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a layer of hardened caramelized sugar.
Crème brûlée is usually served in individual ramekins. Discs of caramel may be prepared separately and put on top just before serving, or the caramel may be formed directly on top of the custard immediately before serving. To do this, sugar is sprinkled onto the custard, then caramelized under a red-hot salamander (a cast-iron disk with a long wooden handle) or with a butane torch.
There are two methods for making the custard. The more common creates a “hot” custard by whisking egg yolks in a double boiler with sugar and incorporating the cream, adding vanilla once the custard is removed from the heat. Alternatively, the egg yolk/sugar mixture can be tempered with hot cream, then adding vanilla at the end. In the “cold” method, the egg yolks and sugar are whisked together until the mixture reaches ribbon stage. Then, cold heavy cream is whisked into the yolk mixture followed by vanilla. It is then poured into ramekins and baked in a bain-marie.