Serving homemade crème brûlée is a sure way to impress guests, and it’s a surprisingly easy dish to make. One of the key components in successfully baking a crème brûlée is choosing the correct size of a ramekin.
Ideally, a 5-ounce or 6-ounce ramekin will work best for individual crème brûlée portions, though ramekins slightly smaller or slightly bigger can also be used.
What is Crème brûlée?
Crème brûlée is a classic European dessert that has its roots in French, Spanish, and English cuisine. It has a crisp, caramelized surface covering a silky vanilla custard beneath. Crème brûlée is baked in the oven in a water bath, inside ramekins which are served as individual portions.
Best Ramekin Size for Crème Brûlée
The best size of ramekin dish to use for baking crème brûlée is disputed amongst experienced cooks, though most agree a 5-ounce or 6-ounce ramekin is favorable.
In a 5-ounce ramekin, you will get a higher ratio of crisp topping to a vanilla custard, whereas in a 6-ounce ramekin, the resulting crème brûlée will be more custard heavy. Both options are very good, and essentially when choosing between these two sizes it comes down to personal preference, as well as what you have available in your kitchen.
The 6-ounce ramekin has a diameter measurement of around 4.8 inches and a height of around 1.1 inches. By comparison, a 5-ounce ramekin has a diameter measurement of approximately 3.5 inches, with a height of around 1.5 inches.
Both of these sizes will accommodate a suitable amount of crème brûlée for an individual portion. You can use bigger ramekins, however, your guests may find the dessert is too rich to eat the whole portion. The smallest ramekin you should consider using for an individual portion of crème brûlée is the 4-ounce ramekin.
Ramekins any smaller than this would contain a very meager portion, which will struggle to satisfy your guests. The exception to this is if you are making a selection of mini desserts for your guests to try. This is often called a dessert trio, where three miniature ramekins are given to each person as a pudding, as a way of allowing them to experience a number of different desserts. For miniature desserts such as these, a 3-ounce ramekin will be suitable for baking a crème brûlée.
Crème brûlée should be baked in a water bath. This involves setting your ramekins inside a baking dish and then filling the baking dish with hot water.
You need to be careful to avoid having any of the water spilling over into the ramekins, as this will ruin them. Some people feel that ramekins with taller sides work better for baking crème brûlée because there will be less chance of the water coming over the top of the ramekin, compared with more shallow ramekins.
Best Ramekin Material for Crème Brûlée
Crème brûlée can be cooked in any ramekin which is ovenproof. This can include ceramic, glass, silicone, or metal ramekins. However, if you’re looking for the most evenly cooked crème brûlée, then most professional chefs agree that a ceramic ramekin is your best option in terms of material.
The contents of a glass ramekin will cook more quickly, and this can make the custard mixture too soupy. A ceramic ramekin allows the crème brûlée to cook more evenly, insulating the custard from excessive heat, and resulting in a better-cooked pudding.
Can You Make Crème Brûlée Without a Blow Torch?
Crème Brûlée needs to be finished before serving, and this is achieved by applying a high level of heat to a sprinkling of sugar on the surface of the custard. The heat will caramelize the sugar, causing it to become crisp and brittle. The best way to finish crème brûlée is with a blow torch, but this is not a common piece of kitchen equipment for most people.
If you lack a blow torch, you can finish your crème brûlée under the broiler. Keep a close eye on the ramekins, because if you leave them under the broiler for too long then the previously set custard can become too liquid-like.
How to Make Crème Brûlée
- Set up six 6-ounce ramekin dishes in a large baking tray with tall sides. A roasting dish or lasagna dish works well. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Beat together eight egg yolks and half a cup of sugar in a large mixing bowl, until smooth.
- Add two cups of heavy cream and two teaspoons of vanilla extract to the mixing bowl, and gently beat these into the egg and sugar mixture.
- Use a sieve to strain your mixture and remove any lumps.
- Pour the strained mixture into the six ramekins, filling them to around a quarter inch from the rims.
- Pour hot water into your baking dish to around a half inch in height. Take care not to spill water in the ramekins.
- Transfer the baking dish which contains both the water and the filled ramekins into the oven. Hold the tray steady so that water doesn’t swirl over and into the ramekins. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the custard feels set.
- Once set, remove the baking dish from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool. The crème brûlée should be allowed to cool gradually, so don’t remove them from their water bath. Leave them to reach room temperature over the course of a few hours.
- Once the crème brûlée ramekins have cooled, remove them from their water bath, and cover them in plastic wrap. They can now be stored in the refrigerator until you are almost ready to use them (a minimum of four hours, a maximum of two weeks).
- Just before serving, take the crème brûlée ramekins out of the refrigerator and uncover them. Sprinkle a layer of fine sugar on top, and caramelize using a blow torch, or under a broiler.