Crème Brûlée

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

crème brûlée is a French term for a rich baked custard made with cream, rather than with milk. The custard is topped with a layer of sugar (usually brown) which is then caramelized by use of a salamander or under a grill. Crème, meaning ‘cream’, is derived from the Latin chrisma through the old French cresme. The term brulé is applied to dishes such as cream custards which are finished off with a caramelized sugar glaze.

In English, the dish is Burnt cream. This term was in use as long ago as the beginning of the 18th century, but the French term had already been used by Massialot in 1691 and has priority, although it fell into disuse in France for a while in the 19th century (oddly, at just about the time when English people were adopting it in place of their own English term).