French creme brulee is a luxurious dessert that is deceptively simple to make. Our latest version has been updated for Fall, a maple creme brulee recipe topped with sweet and salty pecans. The perfect gluten-free dessert recipe!
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Please read the entire post for tips and tricks to ensure a perfect recipe every time. And don't forget to tag @peelwithzeal on Instagram so we can admire your creation!
Creme brulee is my go-to gluten-free Thanksgiving dessert. No one wants to eat my gluten-free pumpkin pie when they can have the real thing.
But everyone wants this maple creme brulee! Okay, this creme brulee and our sweet potato crunch.
We love this recipe because:
- Naturally gluten-free, no substitutions or hard to find ingredients needed
- The sweetness is balanced with salt
- Can be made 2 to 3 days in advanced, making it the perfect recipe for holiday gatherings
- Made using the cold method (hint: you can even use a blender)
Creme brulee is traditionally made from egg yolks, sugar, and heavy cream. With traditional French creme brulee flavored with vanilla.
Maple Creme Brulee
- Heavy Cream
- Eggs- yolks only
- Maple syrup- Try a bourbon barrel maple syrup for extra flavor
- Brown sugar- You can substitute granulated sugar but I prefer the brown sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Granulated sugar- for caramelizing the tops
While the pecans are optional, I love the extra pizzazz they give this dessert.
- Brown sugar
- Kosher Salt
See the recipe card for quantities.
Usually, I don't talk much about the equipment needed to make recipes but creme brulee does require a few specific items.
First off, you need ramekins. A shallow ramekin is key to the baking time and getting the perfect crunchy sugar topping to creamy custard ratio. While you can use deeper ramekins, they are actually made for puddings and custards, not traditional creme brulee.
Second, you need a roasting pan large enough to fit the ramekins. When making creme brulee the ramekins are set in another pan for baking.
Yes, you can broil the creme brulee to caramelize the top. Preheat your broil with the rack in the 2nd highest position. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes, rotate the pan, and broil for another 2 to 3 minutes. Continue until the sugar caramelizes. Rest for a few minutes to cool the ramekins and harden the sugar.
Yes. Use a ceramic or glass pie plate or another shallow dish. Be sure it is small enough to fit in your roasting pan as it still requires a water bath. It will take longer to cook.
⏲️How to Make Creme Brulee
There are two methods for making creme brulee. The "hot" method is created by whisking egg yolks in a double boiler with sugar and incorporating the cream.
The "cold" method whisks together the egg yolks and sugar until ribbons are formed. Then, cold heavy cream is whisked into the yolk mixture.
Both creme brulee methods then bake the custards in a bain-marie. A bain-marie is simply a water bath. Where the ramekins are placed in a roasting pan that is then filled with water.
I always use the cold method. simply because I find it easier and I eliminate the risk of scrambling the eggs.
Step 1- Prep
Preheat oven to 300 F degrees. Put on a kettle to warm 4 cups of water for the bain-marie (aka water bath). Or you can just use a saucepan.
Separate the egg yolks from the whites. The whites can be reserved for another use such as meringues or egg-white omelets.
Step 2- Whisk the Yolks and Cream
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks and brown sugar until the sugar has begun to dissolve and ribbons form. You won't get full thick ribbons like with granulated sugar.
Whisk in the maple syrup. Add cream and vanilla, continue to whisk until well blended.
You can also do this step in a blender!
Step 4- Bake in a Water Bath
Place the ramekins in a large roasting pan. Evenly divide the cream mixture between the four ramekins.
You can pour it through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any bubbles or foam. This will give you a smoother even top but is a totally optional step.
Pull the rack partially out of the oven. Place the roasting pan on the rack BEFORE filling it with water.
Add the warm water to the roasting pan. You want to add enough to come up at least halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Do not overfill.
Carefully slide the rack back into the oven and bake until the custard trembles slightly when gently shaken. About 40 to 50 minutes.
Step 5- Cool and Caramelize
Let the ramekins cool in the water bath for 30 minutes. Remove the molds from the water bath and place them on a cooling rack for 30 minutes. Then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving; the custards will finish setting in the refrigerator.
To serve, sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons of the sugar over the top of the custards. For best results, use a small handheld torch to caramelize. Otherwise, place under a preheated broiler until caramelized. Keep a close eye- it happens fast!
Top with salted pecans and serve immediately.
Start by dry toasting the pecans in a skillet over medium heat. While pecans are toasting combine the brown sugar, water, and kosher salt in a small bowl.
Drizzle the sugar mixture over the pecans, stirring the nuts as you drizzle. Stir constantly for about 15 seconds, until the pecans are thoroughly coated in the sugar mixture and the water begins to evaporate.
Immediately remove from heat spread the pecans on a piece of wax paper to cool. Cool for 1 to 2 hours to prevent sticking. Once cooled store in an airtight container until you are ready to use.
📖 Tips and Tricks
This easy creme brulee recipe is almost foolproof. However, there are some common creme brulee mistakes we should review.
Not using a shallow ramekin. For consistent baking, the shallow ramekins provide the best chance for a creamy texture. Deeper dishes run the risk of being too soft on the inside and overdone on the outer edges.
Skipping the water bath. The bain-marie prevents the custard from drying out and cracking. Do not skip this step!
Not heating the water. Warm, not boiling, water helps accelerate the heating process without drying out the custard.
Getting water in the pudding. I recommend lining the roasting pan with paper towels and place the ramekins on top. This prevents them from sloshing around. Using a funnel and pouring the water into the pan once it is placed on the oven rack is a key to reducing the chance of water sloshing in.
Forgetting to separate the egg yolks. It seems obvious but using the whole egg is the surefire to ruin the creme brulee.
Using the fancy sugars. When it comes to caramelizing the sugar a straightforward granulated sugar works best for creme brulee.
Pumpkin Spice Creme Brulee
Add 1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice with the vanilla extract and bake as usual.
Maple Bourbon Creme Brulee
Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of bourbon with the vanilla extract and bake as usual.
🌡️ Advanced Prep and Storage
The pecans can be made 3 to 5 days in advance and stored at room temperature in an airtight container.
The creme brulee can be made through the cooling stage up to 3 days in advance. To store, place ramekins on a sheet pan and cover with plastic wrap.
Once caramelized the creme brulee is best eaten that day. However, leftovers can be wrapped with plastic wrap and stored in the fridge.
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Maple Creme Brulee with Salted Pecans
Maple Creme Brulee
Maple Creme Brulee
- Preheat oven to 300 F degrees. Put on a kettle to warm 4 cups of water.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks and brown sugar until the sugar has dissolved and ribbons form. Whisk in the maple syrup.5 egg yolks, ¼ cup maple syrup, 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- Add cream and vanilla, continue to whisk until well blended.1 ½ cups heavy cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Place the ramekins in a large roasting pan. Evenly divide the cream mixture between the four ramekins. You can pour it through a strainer to remove any bubbles or foam.
- Add the warm water to the roasting pan. You want to add enough to come up halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
- Carefully transfer to the oven and bake until the custard trembles slightly when gently shaken. About 40 to 50 minutes.
- Let the ramekins cool in the water bath for 30 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and place on a cooling rack for 30 minutes. Then refrigerate for 2 hours (or for up to 3 days) before serving; the custards will finish setting in the refrigerator.
- To serve, sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons of the sugar over the top of the custards. For best results, use a small handheld torch to caramelize. Otherwise, place under a preheated broiler until caramelized. Keep a close eye- it happens fast!4-6 teaspoon granulated sugar
- Top with salted pecans and serve immediately.
- In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, water, and kosher salt.2 teaspoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon water, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- In a medium skillet over medium heat, toast pecans for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
- Drizzle the sugar mixture into the pan, on top of the pecans, stirring the nuts as you drizzle. Stir constantly for about 15 seconds, until the pecans are thoroughly coated in the sugar mixture.½ cup pecan pieces
- Immediately remove from heat spread the pecans on a piece of wax paper to cool. Cool for 1 to 2 hours to prevent sticking. Once cooled store in an airtight container until you are ready to use.
- Place paper towels in the roasting pan to prevent the ramekins from sliding around.
- If you don't have ramekins this recipe can be made in a small casserole dish or glass pie pan. It will need to be small enough to fit inside your larger roasting pan.
- It is important to spread the sugar evenly when caramelizing; if it is too thick or too thin in places, the caramelization will not be even across the top.
Check out our Maple Creme Brulee web story!