Escoffier's berry creme brulee

French cooking tends to involve much too much work for me to consider trying anything classically French at home. But recently I decided to set aside my preference for the simple and spend a day at the culinary school started by and named for the king of all French chefs, Georges-Auguste Escoffier’s Ecole Ritz Escoffier. It’s not really a day of learning so much as it is a morning of cooking and an afternoon of eating with the chef and the assistant.

This is the easiest of the three courses our class made (the other two were a prawn gazpacho with a seafood stock-infused cream and a roasted turbot over risotto). Even though it was the creme was the last dish we ate, there was nothing left of it on anyone’s plate.


  • 12 egg yolks
  • 160g superfine sugar
  • 4 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
  • ½ liter cream
  • ½ liter milk
  • 1 pint raspberries (or any seasonal berry of similar size)
  • raw sugar
  • 6 sprigs of mint


  • paring knife
  • medium saucepan
  • mixing bowl
  • whisk
  • sieve
  • bowl with spout
  • 6 ramekins of 5” diameter
  • high sided baking tray
  • blowtorch


  1. If you’re preparing dessert to eat today, pre-heat oven 200°F
  2. Scrape the insides of the vanilla beans with a small paring knife and combine with milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Let cool for 15 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, whisk yolks and sugar until the mixture becomes wispy and a light pale yellow.
  5. Once the milk and vanilla mixture has cooled, add the cream and stir well.
  6. Now whisk in the yolk and sugar mixture and stir until combined.
  7. Pour through sieve into second bowl. (If you’re making the mixture a day in advance, cover and refrigerate it now).
  8. Place ramekins on the baking tray.
  9. Space berries out on the bottom of the ramekins, dividing them evenly. Set aside 6 berries for topping.
  10. Pour cream mixture into ramekins.
  11. Bake creams in oven for 20 minutes.
  12. To test doneness, open the oven and gently rock the baking tray. If more than just the middle of the cream wiggles, keep in oven for another 5 minutes.
  13. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely to room temperature.
  14. Sprinkle raw sugar on the top of the creams.
  15. If you have a blowtorch, light it and caramelize the tops of the creams by passing the torch over each one until the tops brown and begin to bubble.
  16. Let cool slightly.
  17. Top each one with a reserved berry and a sprig of mint.

What you should know

If you keep the cream mixture in the refrigerator overnight the vanilla will permeate the liquid. You can substitute the vanilla for any other fragrant herb you want; lavender, for instance.

If you don’t have a blowtorch, you can broil the creams 3 inches from the heat source until they turn brown. But remember to let them cool after baking before you try to broil them.