In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar together. Whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg yolk mixture is thick and light in color.
Add the whipping cream and vanilla extract; whisk until blended. Strain the mixture into a large bowl, skimming off any foam or bubbles.
Place wire rack in baking pan (if using brulee set) and fill pan halfway with water.
Place the ramekins into the wire rack (if using brulee set) or into the baking pan and carefully pour the brulee mixture into the 4 ramekins. (Note: the water should cover the bottom half of the ramekins)
Bake brulee at 300 degrees until the edges are set, but still slightly loose in the center, approximately 50-55 minutes. Remove pan from oven (carefully!), and let it rest on a wire rack until completely cooled. Once cooled, remove the cups from the rack and chill the brulee at least 2 hours or more.
Before serving, sprinkle 1 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar evenly across the top of each one. Using a small, hand-held torch, carefully melt the topping by keeping the flame approx. 2-3 inches from the top of the sugar and move flame around, as the sugar melts, then caramelizes. Do not burn the sugar...it just needs to be a nice caramel color. As the caramelized sugar cools, it will form a hard "crackable" surface for your brulee. This is my favorite part!
If NOT using a butane torch to carmelize sugar: If you do not own a hand-held torch, you can use this method to caramelize the sugar:
Once you remove the ramekins from the refrigerator where they have chilled, place them back in the pan (no water), and place them NO MORE than 5 inches under the oven's broiler until the sugar melts (in as little as 2 minutes). Remove pan promptly from the oven and cool. Re-chill the brulee in the refrigerator for several minutes, for optimum serving temperature.
Other flavor options: replace vanilla with 1 tsp. orange extract, 1 tsp. grated orange peel and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg OR use your favorite chocolate or espresso flavoring.
Classic Creme Brulee
Amount Per Serving (1 g)
Calories 468Calories from Fat 360
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 23g144%
Vitamin A 1700IU34%
Vitamin C 0.6mg1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.