Friday, March 5, 2021

Oreo crème brûlée

Crème brûlée is a rich vanilla custard topped with caramelized sugar. It gives the impression of a very fancy dessert—something you only order at a French restaurant. That's why many people are shocked to find out how easy it is to make. It involves just 5 ingredients: Heavy cream, vanilla, egg yolks, granulated sugar, and salt. Today I'm adding a 6th ingredient, Oreos, in honor of National Oreo Day on March 6.

In this post, I'll walk through each of the steps to better explain the process. I hope it makes the dessert less intimidating.


First step: Heat the cream just barely to a simmer. The reason we heat the cream is that later, when we combine the cream with sugar, the heat will help melt the sugar granules and ensure our custard isn't grainy. Also, by heating the cream, we can use it to slowly raise the temperature of the egg yolks so they aren't shocked by the intense heat of the oven later in the recipe.

If you are using an actual vanilla bean, add it at this time. But if you're using vanilla extract, wait to add it until after you remove the saucepan from the heat. That's because vanilla extract is around 35% alcohol, and the alcohol burns off when it's heated.

For Oreo crème brûlée, separate the Oreos and add the cream filling straight to the saucepan with the heavy cream as it heats on the stove. Crush the cookie portion and save the crumbs for later.

Second step: Whisk together everything else. It's important to whisk the sugar and salt with the egg yolks because they help to act as a temperature buffer when we combine the egg yolks with the heated cream. We use just the yolks for a richer, creamier custard. The proteins in egg whites clump at lower temperatures than egg yolks, so if we used whole eggs, the custard would be firmer and less creamy.

Third step: Temper the eggs. This is the process of slowly warming the temperature of the eggs so they don't scramble. We do this by slowly pouring some hot cream into the egg mixture while whisking. If you successfully tempered the eggs and combined the mixture with the hot cream, you shouldn't need to strain it. However, if you notice any clumps, strain the mixture through a sieve before baking.

Fourth step: Place your ramekins in a large baking dish (use 2 if they don't fit in 1). I recommend using shallow ramekins because the custard cooks evenly, and there is more surface area for the caramelized sugar crust. Pour the custard in each ramekin and top with 1 Tablespoon of crushed Oreo cookies.

Then pour hot water into the baking dish. You need enough hot water that it rises halfway up the ramekins. This is called a "water bath" or a "bain marie." The water will help to moderate the heat and it slowly raises the temperature of the custard so the edges don't overcook before the heat reaches the inside.

Your crème brûlée is done when the edges are set but the center is still a little jiggly. Use an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature. It's finished when it registers 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooking time will vary depending on size and shape of your ramekin.

Allow the custards to cool on a cooling rack for at least a half hour before moving them to the refrigerator. You should refrigerate them for at least 4 hours before serving to all for the custard to set.

Fifth step: The most fun part of making this dessert is when we brûlée the crème. I highly recommend getting a small kitchen torch for this. You'll find uses for the torch other than crème brûlée. I got one for about $20. The benefit of using a torch is it applies heat quickly and directly so you can caramelize the sugar without heating the rest of the custard.

If you're reading this and obtaining a torch isn't possible at this moment, heat the back of a metal spoon on your stove and lightly touch the sugar.

Start with a light coat of sugar, about 1 teaspoon, and make sure the entire surface is covered. There shouldn't be any exposed custard. Use the kitchen torch to evenly cramelize the sugar, making sure to not hold it in one place for long so the sugar doesn't burn too much. Repeat this process a second time for a thicker sugar crust. Once you caramelize the sugar, serve the Oreo crème brûlée immediately.

Oreo Crème Brûlée

Yield: 6 servings


  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 8 Oreos, cookies and filling separated
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar, plus more for topping
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Heat heavy cream in saucepan over low heat. Add filling from Oreos to saucepan and bring to low simmer. 
  3. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  4. Whisk together egg yolks, sugar, and salt.
  5. Temper cream into egg mixture by slowly pouring in 1 cup of cream while whisking. Continue to slowly pour cream into egg mixture until incorporated.
  6. Place ramekins in large baking dish. Pour cream mixture into ramekins.
  7. Crush cookies until texture is that of fine crumbs. Add 1 Tablespoon of cookie crumbs to each ramekin.
  8. Fill baking dish with enough hot water so it rises halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
  9. Carefully place baking dish into oven and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. The edges should be set, but the centers should still be a little jiggly. Double-check with an instant-read thermometer. The custard is done when it reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
  10. Remove baking dish from oven and place ramekins on cooling rack for about a half hour before covering and moving to refrigerator. 
  11. Chill custard for at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.
  12. Before serving, top each custard with a thin layer of sugar (about 1 teaspoon). Caramelize sugar with kitchen torch and serve immediately.

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