Creme Brulee Ice Cream

Every so often a dessert comes into your life and you think: This is my favorite. That is how I feel about this ice cream.

Years ago I formulated a recipe for Creme Brulee Ice Cream.  I remember looking around for the perfect recipe, wanting to put my own twist on it.  I ended up caramelizing sugar and pouring it onto a silpat-lined baking sheet, then breaking the hard caramel into shards to stick into the ice cream before serving.  It was delicious, but the brittle was a little hard to eat.

That was before my friend Wendy gave me a culinary torch for my birthday in 2008 (I think it was.)  Everyone should have a torch in their kitchen.  They are a lot of fun to use and come in handy every so often.

One day I was trying to decide how to use up the almost dozen egg yolks in my fridge.  (Why so many egg yolks, you ask?  My son and one of my daughters prefer egg white-only fried eggs.  So, extra yolks.) My mind drifted back to this ice cream and I wondered if I could make it again and improve it.

The answer was YES.

I did it.  It was perfect in every way.
The freshly churned ice cream is divided into ramekins and frozen until firm.  Then each one is sprinkled with a little raw sugar and torched. Oh, how I love watching the sugar melt into caramel.

The top shatters with the tap of the spoon, and underneath is the most velvety ice cream you can possibly imagine.  It doesn’t melt into a puddle like other ice cream.  Oh, no.  All those egg yolks make a thick custard that remains thick and luscious as it melts.

I’m telling you this:  It’s worth every single calorie.

Creme Brulee Ice Cream

Original recipe


2 cups very cold heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
10 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla or 1 vanilla bean, split
pinch salt
10-12 tsp. raw sugar
equipment needed:  culinary torch


Beat egg yolks, sugar and salt together until thick and light in color.  Heat milk with vanilla bean, if using, until very hot.  Add to the eggs and sugar in a slow, steady stream.  Pour back into pan and cook over medium-low heat until it reaches 170-180 degrees F.  (Be really careful not to let it curdle!)  Pour through a sieve into a clean bowl.  Add the cold cream and vanilla extract, if using.

Chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.  Or to speed up the chilling process, use an ice water bath.*  Churn in an ice cream  maker according to manufacturer directions.  Divide the ice cream between 10-12 small freezer-proof bowls or ramekins, leaving a little space at the top.  Press a bit of waxed paper on the surface to make it smooth and flat.  Transfer to the freezer.

To serve:
Remove ramekins from the freezer about 10 minutes before serving and allow to soften a bit at room temperature.

To caramelize the sugar:
Sprinkle top of each ramekin of ice cream with 1 tsp. raw sugar.  Use a torch to caramelize the sugar.  Serve.

**You can prepare and ice water bath buy using two nesting bowls. Just make sure that the bowl holding the ice water is large enough to accommodate the bowl with the custard. You want most of the custard bowl to be submerged in ice water so the custard can cool sufficiently. Or you could also fill your kitchen sink with ice and water.

I like to use a large glass bowl to hold the ice and water, and my stainless steel Kitchenaid mixer bowl to hold the custard. The metal gets much colder, much faster than glass.

The colder you let the custard get, the faster it will freeze and the smoother it will be.

In case you were curious–here’s the picture from the first time I made this recipe. :)

If you want to make brittle instead of caramelizing the sugar on top, boil together:  1 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp. water, and 1 Tbsp. corn syrup.  Cook until deep golden brown, washing down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush if any crystals form.  Pour onto a baking sheet lined with silpat or parchment paper, or has been brushed with vegetable oil.  Tilt the pan, being careful not to burn yourself, until the caramel is in a thin layer.  Let it cool completely and break into shards.

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  1. Oh, boy this looks like a good one.

    I never heard back from you in response to my email (question). Just wondering…. it’s okay if you’re not ready to share your frozen marshmallow (sorta)ice cream yet but I’d really love to give it a try! :))

  2. I don’t have a kitchen torch :( but I plan to get one someday, so I’m saving this recipe for that time. Creme brulee ice cream sounds PERFECT, and I love the idea that it’s thick even as it melts! Thanks for figuring this one out for all of us.

  3. I just ran to put my ice cream freezer in the freezer so I can make this for a dinner party tonight! Looks amazing! Will cool off everyone after my cocoa-spiced ribs.

  4. OMG, tis creme ice cream looks amazing! I love creme brulee and never had the idea of making ice cream… wonderful pictures, perfect recipe!

  5. Thanks for all of the comments, everyone! :)

    The little glass ramekins came from my mother-in-law. She occasionally buys frozen creme brulee (ready at a moment’s notice!) and then we reuse the ramekins. Aren’t they adorable?

  6. Is there any problem with the ramekin cracking or breaking from the heat of the torch after being frozen? Or is the 10 mins out of the freezer enough to prevent problems? Any other non-breaking secrets?

  7. That’s a great question, Serina.

    I know this glass is fine when it comes to freezing and torching just because it was designed for that purpose commercially. I kept the torch at a safe distance from the surface just to be sure. I’m thinking (but this is just my opinion) that if whatever ramekin you use is oven-proof, a few seconds under the torch won’t cause it to crack. I’ve also done this exact ice cream in a ceramic ramekin and it was just fine. I was a little worried, too, but it held up just fine. Just be careful not to touch the top after it’s been torched because it does get hot. Again, this is just my opinion, but because the ramekin is filled with frozen ice cream, I think it’s less likely to crack. If you took an empty glass ramekin from the freezer and then exposed it to extreme heat, I’m pretty sure it would shatter. The same goes for the opposite–hot to extreme cold.

    Hope that helps! Feel free to e-mail me at cafejohnsonia (at)gmail (dot) com if you have any other questions.

  8. I travel miles for a good creme bruele and same for ice cream. Need to put on my wish list the torch and the containers. Closest I ever got to this wss asking a restaurant to put Creme Bruele liqour on ice cream.Thank you!

  9. What an awesome idea! You had be at Brulee… I have recently been toying with homemade ice creams, and this one will definitely be on my to-do list!

  10. I made a Crème Brûlée ice cream using Ina Garten’s Creme Anglais custard ice cream. For the brûléed sugar I used an old 13×9” Silpat and sprinkled a thick layer of sugar all over the mat. I tried to make a layer of 1/8” in the center but thinner on the edges. Then I melted the sugar with a large blow torch. The sugar melted beautifully just like on top of creme brûlée. The texture wasn’t even over the whole mat which made it identical to what happens with the burnt sugar when you burn the sugar over the custard. I broke and chipped the caramel into small shards and mixed them into the ice cream before serving. My husband loved it so much. I put all the brûléed sugar into the full batch of ice cream.

    The next day I tried the ice cream again. The brûléed sugar was still crunchy, but part of the caramel was melting into the ice cream. That’s why you want a little more than an 1/8” thick layer of sugar to melt. If it’s too thin, it will just dissolve into the ice cream. You can also make very thin pieces of brûléed sugar to just mix in when serving.

    I loved the texture of the caramel the next day as it was being absorbed into the custard. The custard had little bits of caramel flavor as well as some crunchy burnt sugar.

    I want to add an almond brittle crisp made with finely sliced almonds to up the flavor.

    I really love Ina Garten’s Creme Anglais ice cream because she adds a little cognac which is so good with egg custard and cuts the richness a bit. she prefers Armagnac if you can get it.

    Amaretto would be really delicious if you decide to add some almond brittle.

    If 10 egg yolks is too rich for you, Ina’s recipe uses 4.

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