Crème brûlée also known as burnt cream, crema catalana, or Trinity Cream is a dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a contrasting layer of hard caramel. It is normally served at room temperature. The custard base is traditionally flavoured with vanilla, but can also be flavoured with lemon or orange (zest), rosemary, lavender, chocolate, Amaretto, Grand Marnier, cinnamon, coffee, liqueurs, green tea, pistachio,hazelnut, coconut or other flavours.
The earliest known reference to crème brûlée as it is known today appears in François Massialot‘s 1691 cookbook, and the French name was used in the English translation of this book, but the 1731 edition of Massialot’s Cuisinier roial et bourgeois changed the name of the same recipe from “crème brûlée” to “crème anglaise“. In the early eighteenth century, the dessert was called “burnt cream” in English.
In Britain, a version of crème brûlée (known locally as “Trinity Cream” or “Cambridge burnt cream”) was introduced at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1879 with the college arms “impressed on top of the cream with a branding iron“. The story goes that the recipe was from an Aberdeenshire country house and was offered by an undergraduate to the college cook, who turned it down. However, when the student became a Fellow, he managed to convince the cook.
In Catalan cuisine, crema catalana (“Catalan cream”) or crema cremada (“Burnt cream”), is a dish similar to crème brûlée. It is traditionally served on Saint Joseph’s Day (March the 19th) although nowadays it is consumed at all times of year. The custard is flavoured with lemon or orange zest, and cinnamon. The sugar in crema catalana is traditionally caramelised under an iron broiler or with a specially made iron, not with a flame. Crema Catalana is sometimes baked with a pineapple on top.
Crème brûlée is usually served in individual ramekins. Discs of caramel may be prepared separately and put on top just before serving, or the caramel may be formed directly on top of the custard, immediately before serving. To do this, sugar is sprinkled onto the custard, then caramelised under a salamander broiler or with a blow torch.
Text courtesy of Wikipedia.