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The caramel top is what really makes a brulee a brulee, without it, it really is just a pot of custard. The term brulee however is slightly deceiving as it translates literally into burnt and many people interpret that to mean that the top of a brulee should be charred black. When really the term should be interpreted as meaning “to burn”, as that is what is happening to the sugar as it caramelises, it is being burnt. What you want to achieve when “burning” the top of your delicious brulee is a solid layer of sugar that is as brown as possible without being actually burnt; a deep rich brown.

    1. Sprinkle the top of one brûlée with 1 tbsp of sugar and spread around evenly. (Be sure to wipe any excess sugar off the ramekin rim before proceeding).

caramelizing brulee_step1

    1. Take the lit kitchen torch and cook the sugar with the flame travelling out to the edge and not in to the middle, (see photo)

caramelizing brulee_step2

    1. Keep moving the flame around the edge as though you are burning every number on the face of a clock.

caramelizing brulee_step3

  1. Doing this will result in even cooking and no burnt or undercooked patches, whereas blasting the centre will result in exactly that.
  2. Keep flaming the brûlée until the sugar has caramelized and turned to a deep deep brown.
  3. Repeat for each brûlée.

  1. If you do not have a kitchen torch, take your old soup spoon and hold the handle with a folded dry towel and place the ladle end into the flame of one of your stove burners.
  2. Hold it there until it glows hot and then roll the base of the hot spoon over the sugar on the brûlées.
  3. The same effect of caramelised sugar will be achieved.

  1. Alternatively you could also use you griller (broiler) at a very high temperature and place the sugar covered brulees as close to the heat as possible.
  2. With this method, it is important however that your have a powerful grill (broiler) as, there is the risk of the griller not being hot enough and causing the brulee to split before the sugar caramelises.

Paul Hegeman

Paul is a personal Chef to exclusive Sydney clients and is also our most frequently contributing writer. Paul was born in The Netherlands and moved to Canada at a very young age. Experience with traditional European meals at home and the diverse multicultural influence of foods in Canada gave Paul a great appreciation for different culinary styles. Over the years Paul traveled extensively and worked at every level of professional kitchens, from the deep fryer in the local burger joint, to the Head Chef in Five Star Hotels. He now resides full time in Sydney, Australia with his wife and their children. You will find his recipes emphasize natural, uncomplicated flavours and fresh ingredients such as those found in Mediterranean and South East Asian cuisines.

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