There’s nothing quite like a luscious crème brûlée for Valentine’s Day. Add in some lighted candles, perhaps a vase of green tulips and, even if your dinner was frozen pizza or scrambled eggs, you’ve got magic.
Any idiot can make a decent crème brûlée, which just means “cream with burnt sugar on top.” All you need for a terrific, simple, fail-proof crème brûlée is heavy cream, egg yolks, sugar, and salt. Vanilla if you’re picky. And you don’t have to have a blow torch–no fancy equipment needed–a regular oven broiler or even toaster oven work just perfectly.
Now, if you want to gild the lily, you can take it and soar from there as there’s a whole world of crème brûlée flavor and texture possibility to investigate: instant espresso, orange, grapefruit, lime or lemon peel, rosemary, thyme, green matcha, chocolate, Earl Grey tea, vanilla bean, candied ginger, cardamom, turmeric (for those just getting over Covid?), cayenne, nutmeg, rose water, rum, Grand Mariner, Cognac, Calvados, peppermint, almond, pumpkin, guava, oatmeal, eggnog flavors, coconut, lavender…even truffles. The list goes on and on. Head over to The New York Times cooking site to find chocolate Earl Grey crème brûlée, for instance. Or crème brûlée French toast.
Here at Frenchly we wanted to give you some options for this Valentine’s Day that are easy, flavorful, and wonderful riffs on this classic French dessert. If you don’t have shallow ramekins for individual servings, that’s ok, use a pie pan and find a nice-ish spoon to serve into some pretty bowls. Turn the lights down low, light those candles and it’ll all look (and taste) wonderful.
Sally’s Baking Addiction has a great base-simple recipe to start with here. If you want to stop there and call it good, you’ll be very pleased. She walks you through it step by step and makes it so easy, you can do it in your sleep. She adds in a little espresso, but you don’t have to. (If I were to, I’d use this amazing Italian instant espresso, Medaglia D’Oro. You can get it at most grocery stores.)
If you want to try something a little exciting and exotic, like matcha crème brûlée, maybe to match those green tulips, this video, below, is hilarious from Cooking with Dog (there’s a poodle who is apparently translating for a Japanese woman, who is also subtitled). But, once you get past the dog with ribbons in its fur, it’s actually a great recipe for adding matcha to this classic and delicious dessert.
I love this recipe, below, for Earl Grey crème brûlée, created by English YouTuber “Cupcake Jemma.” Easy to follow, charming and yummy looking, I think this is the one for me on Valentine’s Day. Ok, I might share some with my husband and kids…
If none of these flavors does it for you, and you want to get creative, just go back to Sally’s video above and you can sub in roughly the same amount (1/2 tsp) of peppermint flavor, nutmeg, rum, coconut flavoring, rose water, etc., for the espresso she uses. For peppermint, you might add some crumbled candy canes on the top with the sugar before you torch or broil. For coconut, sprinkle coconut flakes after you’ve torched the sugar. For rose, a few petals on top just before serving would be lovely; same goes for lavender.
We’d love to see what you come up with. Send us your picks and tell us your tricks on Instagram this Valentine’s Day. Tag us @frenchlydoesit and #valentinesdaycremebrulee. We hope you have a wonderful day celebrating with those you love, or even just what you love about yourself!
Caitlin Shetterly is the Editor-in-Chief of Frenchly. She is also the author of 4 books: Fault Lines, Made for You and Me, Modified and the upcoming novel, Pete and Alice in Maine, which will be published on July 4th, 2023 by Harper Books. She is a native daughter and she lives with her two sons and husband in an old house on the coast of Maine.