3-Ingredient Crème Brûlée is as Easy (and Delicious) as It Sounds

Social media is at it again with an easy way to make this sugar-coated custard. No culinary torch required.

While staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic, people shared hacks on social media, like whipping coffee into cloud-like drinks, making an omelet in 14 seconds, or getting perfect curls without a curling iron. One of the hottest hacks shared allows you to master crème brûlée at home with just a few ingredients. And no, there's no requirement for a culinary torch to get that burned sugar coating.

Whether it's crème brûlée, creamy flan, or a classic cheesecake, most custard-based recipes have the same starting ingredients: cream, sugar, and eggs. But, instead of buying and whipping up those ingredients separately, use ice cream as one ingredient to replace them all. Utilizing ice cream as the shortcut ingredient in this 3-ingredient crème brûlée is how you quick-start a deliciously creamy dessert.

Since so many are making fancy burnt cream at home, we had to try this one. The results are worth the effort. If you've ever been intimidated by making a crème brûlée from scratch, here's how to make the silky-smooth custard and feel like a fancy French chef right in your home.

ingredients for 3-ingredient creme brulee
Any ice cream with cream, eggs, and sugar will work for this easy crème brûlée recipe. Katlyn Moncada

How to Make 3-Ingredient Crème Brûlée

This easy recipe should work for any single flavor ice cream with cream, eggs, and sugar included in the first five ingredients. Avoid an ice cream that has a lot of chunky ingredients. This is the base recipe needed per serving, which fills one small ramekin or a custard dish.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup ice cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
two creme brulees in a water bath in the oven
Fill your pan with enough water to cover approximately the bottom half of the ramekin dishes. This prevents your custard from cracking and keeps the oven's air moist for an even bake. Katlyn Moncada

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 325ºF.
  2. Melt your ice cream in a microwave-safe glass measuring cup ($20, Crate and Barrel) or bowl large enough to fit the number of servings you're making.. Start with 30-seconds on high power, give it a stir, and keep microwaving in 10- to 15-second intervals until completely melted. You don't want the liquid to boil, so let it cool if it seems too hot.
  3. Using a whisk ($11, Crate and Barrel) or fork, gently combine the egg yolk into the ice cream mixture. If making more than one serving, add yolks one at a time.
  4. Pour your custard into ramekins. Place ramekins inside a baking pan and fill it with boiling water until it reaches halfway up the ramekin side. This water bath technique (bain-marie in French) allows the custard to cook evenly without any cracks and keeps the oven's air moist.
  5. Bake 40 to 50 minutes until the tops are lightly golden-brown.
  6. Allow the crème brûlée to cool to room temperature, cover in plastic wrap, and let them chill in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.
  7. Heat the sugar in a heavy 8-inch skillet over medium heat for the caramelized sugar topping. The key here is to let the sugar sit in an even layer and DON'T touch it. Once the sugar is starting to melt, give it a stir with a heat-proof spatula ($15, Sur La Table) or wooden spoon. Pour an even amount onto the chilled custard and quickly use your hand to move the ramekin back and forth to coat the surface before it hardens.
creme brulee in custard cups on plate
Caramelized sugar quickly hardens to the top of the cooled custard. Act fast to make sure the whole surface is covered. Katlyn Moncada

Now it's time to enjoy your 3-ingredient crème brûlée! Of course, a little bit of waiting time is required, but the process is simple, and you definitely get that satisfying crack as your spoon breaks through that sugar topping.

Keep the caramel love going by making some addicting popcorn. Or try your hand at another fancy dessert like a Pot de Crème, which is a custard similar to crème brûlée, just not as thick.

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