Fifty Shades of Crème Brûlée

Crème Brûlée

Crème brûlée is one of my all-time favorites. Simple and classic. My sister-in-law likes it even more than I do, and one of us can be counted on to order crème brûlée at any of our restaurant outings. But why limit yourself to restaurants? Can you make it at home?

Crème Brûlée

Wait. You’re confused. You’re wondering, am I in the right place? Is this Jen’s SlimmerKitchen blog? Doesn’t she do Mediterranean recipes? Those healthy recipes from The Slimmer Book? Did I mistakenly get redirected to her blog? Or her I_Can’ blog?

No, you’re in the right place! For this post, I’ve made versions with full cream and lightened-up versions with greek yogurt swapped out for cream – they are all yummy. Even at its heavywhippingcreamiest goodness, one serving of crème brûlée is still less than 400 calories. I’ve made about 30 of them in the past few days and I can confirm that crème brûlée also makes for an excellent, protein-packed breakfast!

And if you’re following along on The Slimmer Book, remember that about every 1 of 5 days is a free day, and you can have your crème brûlée then.

For our 50 shades of crème brûlée, we’ll start with a classic crème brûlée, move to few lightened-up versions made with greek yogurt, then throw in some yummy variations like S’mores crème brûlée, Chocolate Orange crème brûlée, and Green Tea crème brûlée.  Click here for the full list of 50 variations. 

What should they all have in common? A proper crème brûlée has a thin and crackly caramelized sugar layer on top, which should make a lovely crunchy noise when your spoon breaks through. Underneath is a chilled, soft, silky-smooth custard. Sound intimidating?

Well, it looks intimidating. But once you try it, and know a few important secrets, this is a very easy dessert. Seriously. A classic crème brûlée has only four ingredients and you probably have most of them in your pantry and refrigerator right now. And it is fast. Faster than making and frosting a cake. And especially faster than driving to Publix to pick out a cake with a 6-year old that wants to look through all the designs. Below are four easy tutorials so you can learn these important secrets to making a great crème brûlée.

Important Secrets to a Great Crème Brûlée – 4 Easy Tutorials


Crème Brûlée Tutorial #1: How do I make the crème brûlée smooth and not lumpy?



Crème Brûlée Tutorial #2: Use a bain-marie (water bath) for a great crème brûlée



Crème Brûlée Tutorial #3: What kind of sugar do I use for the caramelized crust? Granulated, Turbinado, Demerara, Brown?



Crème Brûlée Tutorial #4: How do I create the caramelized crust? Kitchen Torch or Broiler?


So check out the tutorials first, above, or just jump right in with the classic crème brûlée recipe below. Note that all of the information in the tutorials is incorporated in the recipe below.

Classic Crème Brûlée
Serves 4 (easily doubles or triples for a crowd)

2 cups heavy cream (divided)
½ cup granulated sugar
6 egg yolks (or 3 – click here for the 3-egg yolk variation)
1 tsp vanilla extract (or beans from one vanilla bean)
Pinch of salt
4 tsp granulated sugar (for the topping)

Prepare the Pan

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Farenheit. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and remove racks above it if necessary.
  2. Fill a large teakettle or pasta pot with water and put it on the stove to boil. You will use this soon for cooking the crème brûlée in a water bath (bain marie).
  3. Using a pan with high sides (like a roasting pan), cover the bottom with a dish towel. This prevents the ramekins from sloshing about in the water bath when you remove the pan from the oven.

Prepare the Crème Brûlée Mixture

The challenge here is that you need heat to dissolve the sugar (and vanilla bean) into the cream. However, if you add hot cream to egg, it will scramble! So we’re going to heat half the cream with the sugar and vanilla bean, then cool this mixture down before adding it to the egg yolks. Then we’ll strain the entire mixture to remove any solids that have formed.

  1. Put 1 cup of heavy cream in a small (2 quart) saucepan. Add the sugar. If you are using real vanilla beans, scrape the beans out of the pod and add both the beans and the pod to the cream now. (If you are using vanilla extract you will add the extract later). The heat will dissolve the sugar and bring the flavor out of the vanilla. Heat until the sugar is dissolved, maybe about 5 minutes. (Note that many recipes call to boil the cream/sugar mixture, but I didn’t see why it need boiling and didn’t do this, and it was terrific.) Remove from stovetop and place mixture in refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Remember we are cooling it down so we don’t add hot liquid to the eggs.
  2. Once the first mixture is in the refrigerator, add the 2nd cup of cream to the egg yolks and stir with a whisk until combined. Don’t overstir- you don’t want it to be too frothy. If you are using vanilla extract, add that now.
  3. Combine the two mixtures slowly, with a whisk.
  4. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove any solids. Discard solids. Place the mixture in a pitcher, or something that pours easily.


We are using a bain marie (water bath) to cook our crème brûlées. Click here for more information about using a bain marie for a great crème brûlée.

  1. Put the ramekins in the pan. Fill each ramekin about half to two-thirds full with the crème brûlée mixture, distributing the mixture evenly among the ramekins.
  2. Slowly add the water to the pan, filling about 2/3 up the side of the crème brûlée ramekins, or about to the level of the mixture inside. Note that you can add the water first, then the ramekins, however, it is tough to gauge how high to fill the pan unless the ramekins are in the pan first. Make sure not to slosh water in the ramekins. If you do get some water on them, just blot them with a paper towel. Using a teakettle with a spout will make it easier.
  3. Bake until the center of the custard is just set, about 35 minutes. A perfectly cooked crème brûlée at this point will look wiggly (but not liquid) in the center. The middle should be loose and moveable. Your crème brûlées will continue to cook once you take them out of the oven. You don’t want them too firm now, or they will be overcooked later.
  4. When done, remove the pan from the oven and take the ramekins out of the pan by using tongs. Place them on a wire rack so they can cool evenly. Don’t leave them in the water bath or they’ll continue to cook.
  5. After they’ve cooled down a bit, place the ramekins in the refrigerator for an hour or even overnight.

Caramelize the Sugar Top

Up to an hour or two prior to serving, remove ramekins from the refrigerator. If there is moisture on the top of the custard, blot it with a paper towel.

I tried this recipe with four types of sugars, including granulated white sugar, brown sugar, demerara sugar and turbinado sugar. I far preferred white granulated sugar. Click here for the reviews of each type of sugar.

Sprinkle the top of each crème brûlée with the granulated sugar. Use about 1 teaspoon of sugar per ramekin. Shake the ramekin gently to distribute the sugar. Turn the ramekin over and dump out excess sugar if necessary.

I tried several approaches for the crust, and the best way to get a nice crackly caramelized sugar crust is to use a kitchen torch. Use your kitchen torch to evenly heat the top. Use the tip of the blue flame, and move the torch evenly about. At first the sugar will melt and bubble, then it will brown. A few small burned spots are fine.

To really make the crust terrific, wait until the first sugared layer cools then add a second layer.

Click here for the full list of 50 variations. 

Like this post? Great!

  • Follow this blog by subscribing (just enter your email address in the sidebar on the right – I post about once a week)
  • Share! Share it on Facebook or Pin it on Pinterest with the buttons below.
  • Comment and let me know what you think!




Fruit Salad with Yogurt Crunch (parfait style!)

Today I made the Fruit Salad with Yogurt Crunch (parfait style!).  The ingredients were really lovely so I put them in a parfait glass instead of combining them.  I also made three parfaits at once and saved the other two for later, although my 8-year old daughter polished one off as soon as she saw it. According to the Slimmer book, author Harry Papas sometimes serves this as a light dessert at Maria and Eleni’s Taverna.  I see why – apricots and apples are delicious together, especially with the creamy Greek yogurt, crunchy granola and hint of lemon and cinnamon. And when is the last time you had an apricot? I can’t remember – I’ve had them dried in salads but not fresh. I will definitely buy more!

Here’s the recipe…

Fruit Salad with Yogurt Crunch (recipe from Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight by Harry Papas, recipe used with permission, book released in June 2012, to buy the book click here or visit website at  Makes 1 serving.

For the Fruit Salad:
1/2 medium apple, cored and diced
1 small apricot, pitted and diced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
A dash of ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon dried cranberries

For the Yogurt Crunch:
1/2 cup nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt
1 Tablespoon granola
1 Tablespoon chopped walnuts

1. Combine the fruit salad ingredients in an airtight container and keep refrigerated until ready to eat. Also combine the yogurt ingredients in a separate airtight container until ready to eat.

2. To serve, combine both mixtures in a small dish and stir together. (Or serve parfait style as in the picture above)

Serves 1.


Pasta Salad Primavera (with Greek Yogurt)

This lighter version of pasta salad uses Greek yogurt and lots of fresh veggies.  It’s terrific for summer, easy to make and very satisfying.  It is also great as a crowd pleaser or lunch for one, but either way, I’d make extra!

Pasta Salad Primavera (recipe from Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight by Harry Papas, recipe used with permission, book released in June 2012, to buy the book click here or visit website at  Makes 1 serving.

1 1/2 cups cooked small pasta shells
1 Tablespoon finely chopped onion
2 Tablespoons diced green bell pepper
2 Tablespoons shredded carrot
1/2 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 small cucumber, diced
1/2 cup cooked broccoli florets
1 ounce cooked baby shrimp (may substitute diced chicken breast, diced turkey, or flaked tuna)

For the dressing:
2 Tablespoons nonfat plain Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons low-fat mayonnaise
1 teaspoon cocktail sauce
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Place all the salad ingredients in a bowl and toss to combine.

2.  Make the dressing by stirring together the ingredients in a small bowl.  Pour the dressing over the salad.  Stir gently to coat all the ingredients, taste for additional seasoning, and serve or refrigerate until ready to eat.

Makes 1 serving. Let me know how you enjoyed the pasta salad primavera (with Greek Yogurt) in the comments section…

Spaghetti Bolognese (with Greek Yogurt)

This Spaghetti Bolognese (with Greek Yogurt) is a lighter version of a Mediterranean classic that’s easy to make and uses Greek yogurt to replace the cream you’d normally find in a Bolognese.  I think it’s much better and tastier than my regular Spaghetti Bolognese and I don’t think I’ll make Bolognese without Greek yogurt again.  Delish! And the kidlets loved this one.

Slimmer Spaghetti Bolognese (recipe from Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight by Harry Papas, recipe used with permission, book released in June 2012, to buy the book click here or visit website at  Serves 1.
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced white mushrooms
4 oz lean ground beef
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons dry white wine
One 8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 small cinnamon stick (optional)
A pinch of ground allspice (optional)
0 to 2/3 cup water depending on how thick you want the sauce to be (also, if you use more water you may want to cook it down some)
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped parsley leaves
1 Tablespoon non-fat Greek yogurt
2 oz. spaghetti, cooked according to package instructions
1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese to serve

1. Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat, add the onion, green pepper , mushrooms, and beef, season with salt and pepper, and cook, using a fork to break up the meat, until the beef is browned and the vegetables are softened, 6 to 8 minutes.  Add the wine and cook a further minute.

2. Stir in the tomato sauce and paste and add the cinnamon and allspice if desired.  Cook the mixture while stirring for an additional minute.  Pour in the water, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook over low heat until the mixture is thick and well blended, 10 to 12 minutes.  Add the parsley and yogurt. Stir well to combine, and cook 2 minutes more.  Add the cooked spaghetti to the pan, toss well to coat and heat through.  Serve topped with the Parmesan.

Makes 1 serving.

Enjoy your Spaghetti Bolognese with Greek Yogurt and let me know what you think!

Slimmer Loaded Baked Potato

Slimmer Loaded Baked Potato

This loaded baked potato recipe was awesome.  Greek yogurt is practically sour cream – yum! I added a cup of steamed broccoli (swapping for a cup of salad per the Slimmer program FAQs), then followed the rest of the baked potato with scallions (added a bit of bite) and chopped hard-boiled egg, which added protein and texture but I didn’t really taste it.  However, my six-year-old LOVED the egg and ate his and his sister’s portion of egg too.  I have never served the kidlets hardboiled eggs before, and I admit I even had to look up how to cook them – I did not grow up in the Deep South here where deviled eggs are a fave.  The little guy called them “rotten eggs” by mistake and it was so funny that hard-boiled eggs will forever be known as rotten eggs at our house, much to his great dismay.  (Why is it that a six-year-old has no shame running around the pool naked in front of company but is embarrassed when words come out wrong?) Continue reading