Lemon Thyme Crème Brûlée Recipe

Lemon Thyme Crème Brûlée

Ever since we bought the Oxylaser Blowtorch I’ve been pining for an opportunity to use it. My sister Céline has (at least) as much of a sweet tooth as I do, so I decided to make us Lemon Thyme Crèmes Brûlées for dessert on Saturday.

I found a disturbing number of very different crème brûlée recipes out there, calling for widely discordant oven temp, cooking time and quantities of eggs/cream/sugar. They starred various ingredients for flavor, and I was tempted by several combinations : rosemary and vanilla, cinnamon and orange flower water, as well as a version that included chunks of honey spice cake! As is often the case, I ended up using several recipes for inspiration, choosing the ones I figured should work, and sort of blended several into my own version. For flavor, I decided to use lemon and thyme, which I had on hand and sounded like a promising duet.

Mini Cookbook of French Tarts

And without further ado, my friends, let me share that recipe…

Lemon Thyme Crème Brûlée

– 40 cl whipping cream (use full fat, otherwise the crème will not “take” as well)
– 10 cl milk
– 5 or 6 twigs of fresh thyme
– a teaspoon of lemon zest. I used roasted and ground lemon zest from a jar that I got at a gourmet food store in Paris called Lafayette Gourmet, but you could use fresh and mince it very finely.
– 4 egg yolks
– 80 g sugar
– liberal amounts of cassonade (crystallized brown sugar)

(Serves 4. These have to be prepared the night or the morning before.)

In the oven, I inserted the dripping pan, poured simmering water (a fourth of an inch deep) in it, and preheated the oven to 160°C (350°F).

I brought the whipping cream and milk to a boil (it boiled over of course, I’ll just have to get used to the phenomenon, or pay closer attention), moved the saucepan out of the heat and put in the thyme (from Patricia and Stéphan’s window sill) and lemon zest to infuse for about 15 minutes.

I beat together the egg yolks and the sugar. I strained the cream and milk mixture to get rid of the twigs – but reincorporated some of the zest and thyme leaves – and beat it into the eggs and sugar. I poured the mixture into four shallow crème brûlée ramequins and put them onto the dripping tray in the oven. After about 45 minutes, I took them out (still a little wobbly), left them to cool on the counter, then put them into the fridge.

Right before serving, I sprinkled a nice amount of cassonade evenly on each ramequin. The Blowtorch was fetched and, in a palpably tenser atmosphere, the team was organized : Céline would light the match, Maxence (being the man of the house) would work the torch, and I would – bravely – take pictures. At first the flame kept going out, but once we figured out how the torch worked, boy, did we caramelize the living glucose out of that sugar!

The crème brûlées were delicious. Lemon and thyme work incredibly well, the flavor was very subtle and the sugar layer was caramelized to perfection.

What I will do next time : the cream part was a tad undercooked, so I will try turning off the oven and leaving them in for another 15 minutes to set. I will also try using 30 cl of whipping cream and 20 cl of milk, this should work too and result in a lighter cream. Finally, I will use a little less sugar (maybe 50 g) in the cream, because the sugar crust brings a good deal of sweetness in itself.

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  • Wow! That looks yummy!

    I really feel like I need a blowtorch now too.

  • Ladygoat – I am growing more and more convinced that *everybody* needs a blowtorch. It’s one of those things, you come home from work, scorch a little something, maybe a layer of sugar or two, just to blow off steam, you know? :) Better than shooting somebody, no?

  • Wow. I’m so happy that the Oxylaser did the work so astonishingly well. And the lemon/thyme combo sounds delightful. And I agree, everyone needs a blowtorch. ;)

  • the two creme bulee that i’ve had here doesn’t taste that good. the sugar layer is always too burnt.

    still, one more restaurant to try out.

    *jealous of ur blowtorch & cooking touch*

  • Wena – go ahead and get your own blow torch, and then you can experience the delights of a perfectly caramelized – not *scorched* – sugar layer! I was really suprised to see how easy it is to make…

  • problem will come in finding it here in malaysia. haven’t seen one. even my cuz had to buy it overseas.

    another problem would be getting the gas canister. oh well. we’ll see how it goes. :)

  • sarah

    blowtorch be damned — jealous of maxence!

  • Barbara

    My goodness, this sounds so good. I want to serve it for Mothers’ Day but I don’t know how to convert your measurements to ounces, cups, etc. Is there a way that I can find the answer? a conversion chart or some such thing? Thank you

  • elisabetta


    je suis italienne et je vis à Paris. mais je n’arrive pas à trouver de whipping cream ici! En Italie on a de la crème liquide mais fraiche, tandis que ici je trouve que de la UHT. Sinon le fromager m’a dit d’utiliser la crème fraiche….


  • Janet

    Moi aussi, je me demande si’l est possible de trouver de vrai crème à Paris. When I try to whip long-life “crème fleurette,” even with ice cold equipment and cream, the cream rarely whips up properly, even after 15-20 minutes. Is there some secret place where one can find real, fresh whipping cream?

  • Pour répondre à elisabetta – pour moi, le “whipping cream” est de la crème à 35% (pour nous au Canada, c’est la crème la plus crèmeuse….). Si vous pouvez achetez quelque chose de même (peut être à 40%?), c’est cela que vous voulez. :)

  • Just made this and it’s delicious! I made conversions to US measurements, posted here: http://underconstructionblog.typepad.com/under_construction/2007/01/bernzomatic.html

  • Lisa

    i made these on Friday in tiny little ramekins – the lemon thyme flavor was delicious! as a bonus, i got to break in our kitchen torch! thanks for the great recipe.

  • j’adore crème brûlée ! (did i say that correctly?)
    for its ease and versatility alone, crème brûlée is inching up my list of favorite desserts. my first two attempts were regular and lavender crème brûlée with candied lavender flowers, and, to my surprise, my family raved about it. the beauty of creme brulee is that fat (like alcohol) does a marvelous job of extracting all the flavors of whatever you are steeping in the cream. next on my list is chai creme brulee, followed by this recipe, and the malaysian reader just inspired me to make pandan creme brulee.
    thanks for the awesome site and for being my introduction into the world of food bloggers!

  • Clotilde, I’m just wondering whether you filled your dripping pan with boiling water, hot water or ordinary tap water? It seems a 160 oven would take a while to heat water, but I’ve read many recipes that call for boiling water to be poured in right before you put them in the oven. Any thoughts?

  • MavisandFrank – You are absolutely right, thanks for pointing it out: the water should be simmering. I’ve updated the recipe to reflect that.

  • Antonia

    Wondering if this could be adjusted using your Lemon Verbena ice cream recipe to give Lemon Thyme ice cream. That would probably be wrong, right?

  • Rachel Page

    I’ve been too intimidated to make it. But now, I think you just might have released me from that prison of “intimidation in the making of creme brulee”.

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