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Jane Grigson’s Crème Brûlée, which really is burnt cream.

While the dessert with universal appeal has become associated both with France and, since the outset of the twentieth century, with Trinity College, Cambridge, it originated in neither place. Instead, in the guise of burnt cream, the custard first appears in seventeenth century cookbooks from London. Mrs. Grigson’s version draws upon the recipe of an unidentified old friend and is unusual in calling for crème fraiche instead of cream itself because she thought her friend “gets a custard that” she suspects “is closer to the original flavour than anything we can now produce here, with our bland-tasting cream.” Six servings.


  • 20 oz crème fraiche
  • a cinnamon stick
  • peel of a lemon
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 yolks
  • sugar


  1. Push the cinnamon and lemon into the crème fraiche and allow the flavors to infuse in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300°.

  1. Remove the cinnamon and lemon from the crème fraiche.
  2. Beat together the eggs and yolks, then add them to the crème fraiche.
  3. Divide the custard between six ramekins and bake for 30 minutes, then let them cool and refrigerate until chilled.

Light the broiler.

  1. Cover each ramekin with a layer of sugar about ¼ inch thick, set them “in a dish of ice to keep the custard from overheating” and blast them under the broiler until the sugar produces “an even glassy surface patterned with caramel browns.”



-This is not the sweetest dessert, which we believe enhances its appeal. If, however, you want something sweeter, substitute heavy cream for some or all of the crème fraiche.

-Quotations are from Mrs. Grigson’s British Cookery published in New York during 1985.

-If you have a blowtorch it will work faster than the broiler and will make it easier to evenly blast the sugar brown.

-For British readers a broiler is synonymous with the grill.