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Crème Brûlée (pronounced krehm broo-LAY) is traditionally baked in a waterbath in the oven until thickened. For a traditional recipe you need nothing more than cream, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. In general, recipes call for 8 yolks per 2 cups of cream for a very rich recipe. It is finished with a sprinkle with sugar and the top is caramelized! The caramelized sugar on top is usually achieved with a handheld kitchen blowtorch, or by placing the custard under the broiler. See How to: Caramelize the Top on Crème Brûlée.
The origins of Crème Brûlée are very much in contention, with the English, Spanish, and French all staking claim. The Spanish have taken credit for this dessert as "crema catalana" since the eighteenth century, while the English claim it originated in seventeenth-century Britain, where it was known as "burnt cream." It apparently wasn't until the end of the nineteenth century that common usage of the French translation came into vogue, but its wide recognition today seems to have given the French credit for inventing Crème Brûlée.
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