Are all custard-based desserts essentially the same thing? Are crème brûlée and crème caramel just different words for the same creamy dessert?
The Short Answer
No, despite several similarities Crème brûlée and Creme Carmel are not the same thing.
The Long Answer
Custards are weird in that they’re pretty similar to one another. Crème brûlée and crème caramel are two custard-based desserts and they have quite a bit in common. One could even make the argument that they’re essentially the same thing.
I’m taking a different stance than those people, so fight me! (Please don’t actually fight me, I bruise easily.)
I feel like there are enough differences in ingredients and preparation methods to say that these two desserts are not the same thing and there is a difference between them.
Crème caramel is a baked custard which is cooked in a ramekin that is lined with caramel. Crème brûlée is also a baked custard with a nice crackly layer of caramelized sugar on top of it.
The mixing and baking process for these two desserts is very similar. The difference lies in the proportions of their ingredients, which is why I say that they’re not the same.
Crème brûlée is extremely rich. That comes from a lot of heavy cream and egg yolks. When you cook it, it comes out rich and thick which works oh so well with that sheer layer of sugar on top of it. Crème caramel is a lot lighter. It uses whole eggs, not just the yolks. It also uses both milk and cream. The egg whites go a long way toward making the custard firm enough to stand when it’s inverted out of its ramekin after baking.
If you’re at a restaurant and you see crème brûlée and crème caramel on the menu which do you buy? Do you agree with me that these are completely different desserts or are you one of those “all custards are essentially the same thing” people? Sound off in the comment section below and let us know!