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Crème Brûlée Didn’t Set? 5 Reasons & Remedies!

Crème Brûlée is remarkable for its contrasting textures and flavors. It is soft and creamy inside and sweet and crunchy on the outside. 

Forget the fancy name. You won’t find many desserts that are so brilliantly simple. 

So what happens when Crème Brûlée fails to set? How do you fix it? Can you even fix it?  

In this article, I delve into the mechanics of Crème Brûlée. I explain how to fix it. I also explain why the custard may run.

Crème Brûlée Didn’t Set

Crème Brûlée didn’t set either because the egg yolks were too few, the cream wasn’t heavy, you didn’t use heavy cream, it didn’t cook long enough, or it didn’t get enough refrigeration time. Some remedies are as simple as putting it back in the fridge. But if your custard did not set at all, you might have to redo it. 

Crème Brûlée Didn't Set
Crème Brûlée Didn’t Set

How to Fix your Crème Brûlée When it doesn’t Set

Egg yolks are responsible for thickening the mixture. Heat makes proteins within the yolk denature, take in moisture and thicken the custard. 

Crème Brûlée needs 4 hours in the fridge to set. Giving it more time in the fridge will fix the problem. Some chefs leave it for as long as 12-24 hours in the fridge. 

Sometimes more time in the fridge does not fix the Crème Brûlée. You might need to reset the custard. This will take more effort. 

First, scrape the crust off the custard. Now use a spatula to remove the unset custard. Rubber ones are good for this. 

Strain the custard into a bowl. Use the rubber spatula and a metal strainer. Make the custard smooth. Then heat it gently in a double boiler as you stir with a normal spatula. 

Use new ramekins for the custard base. Set new ramekins in a hot water bath with the custard inside and bake. 

Bake for 20 minutes or so. Wait until the temperature inside your custard is 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Then you can turn off the heat. 

If it has not set, give it another five minutes. When it cools, refrigerate it for four or more hours.

When it is ready, the temperature inside the custard is 170. Firm edges and a little bit of a jiggle on the inside are what you are looking for.

You can smooth out any bubbles on top with a kitchen blow torch. 

Crème Brulee didn’t set because you didn't cook it enough
Crème Brûlée didn’t set because you didn’t cook it enough

What is Crème Brûlée? 

Other names for Crème Brûlée are trinity cream or burnt cream. It is a French dessert served in ramekins. 

Vanilla, cream, sugar, eggs, and salt make up Crème Brûlée 

The classic dessert has a crunchy surface and a soft interior. 

It feels tastes rich and creamy. Crème Brûlée is sweet with a touch of vanilla and caramel. 

It is a rich custard base with a top layer of caramelized sugar. Serve it mildly chilled. 

A reason why Crème Brulee didn’t set can also be that you didn't use heavy cream
A reason why Crème Brûlée didn’t set can also be that you didn’t use heavy cream

Use the Right Ingredients For Crème Brûlée to Set

You use vanilla, sugar, salt, eggs, and cream to make Crème Brûlée.   

Only use heavy cream for good results. Light cream will give you runny Crème Brûlée. 

Your Crème Brûlée needs only egg yolks. No egg whites at all.  Protein in the yolk makes Crème Brûlée hold together firmly.  Egg white will upset the ratio of egg yolks to cream. 

You need a minimum of three egg yolks per cup of cream. Use more than three for a firmer texture. Heat alters the protein in the egg in a way that thickens the mixture without making it too firm.

Crème Brûlée is made with egg yolks, vanilla extract, heavy cream, sugar, and salt. Using any ingredient in addition to these will alter your outcomes. Beginners should exercise caution before doing this. 

A reason why Crème Brulee didn’t set are too few egg yolks
A reason why Crème Brûlée didn’t set is too few egg yolks

Cooking Crème Brûlée

Maybe your Crème Brûlée didn’t set it that it did not properly cook. Bake for 40 minutes after preheating your oven to 325 degrees. 

Not enough cooking time will give you a runny consistency. When the inside is only slightly jiggly, you have a perfect Crème Brûlée.

The temperature inside should be 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Overcooked Crème Brûlée looks curdled instead of smooth.  

The ramekins need to sit in a hot water bath for the bottom to set. The level of the hot water should reach halfway up the mixture. Use an oven-safe pan for the hot water bath. 

Water conducts heat so well that it regulates the cooking of the Crème Brûlée. It will cook evenly and not harden because of the hot water bath. 

Put it in the oven carefully so that water does not spill into the ramekins. Water will keep the top from setting. The sugar at the top will not become nice and crunchy if water spills on it.

Crème Brûlée loses volume after cooking. Fill the ramekins with custard. The ramekin should not be larger than the custard.

If the ramekins are too narrow and deep, they will not set inside. The best ramekins are shallow and wide. 

The wider base will give you more caramelized sugar. More crunch to balance the soft insides of the Crème Brûlée.

After cooking, your Crème Brûlée will need 4 hours minimum in the fridge. They will cool and set. Some chefs will even leave them in the fridge for 12-24 hours.

One more reason for why Crème Brulee didn’t set is that you didn't refrigerate it sufficiently
One more reason why Crème Brûlée didn’t set is that you didn’t refrigerate it sufficiently

What to do if You Decide to Start Over With Your Crème Brûlée

This time you want to avoid going through the disappointment of a Crème Brûlée that doesn’t set. Therefore start by choosing a good recipe on the internet. When you do, follow the steps thoroughly to keep it from happening again.

Make sure that your custard base has enough egg yolks. Use three or more egg yolks per cup of heavy cream. 

Hot water baths help set the custard. Water should go halfway up the custard and no higher. 

If you want coffee in your custard mixture, add extra egg yolks. The custard will stay runny if you don’t.

Now you know what to do and what not to do. Perfect Crème Brûlée is attainable.

Frequently Asked Questions About Crème Brûlée Didn’t Set

How do you know when the Crème Brûlée is set?

The sides of the Crème Brûlée will be firm and the center will be slightly wobbly. 

How long does it take to make Crème Brûlée?

It takes at least five hours to make Crème Brûlée. 

What if I overcook Crème Brûlée?

Overcooked Crème Brûlée will still jiggle to the touch. But instead of looking creamy, it will look more curdled like scrambled eggs. To prevent this, don’t leave it in the oven longer than necessary. And never use hot cream. Your heavy cream should be cool.

Conclusion About Crème Brûlée Didn’t Set

Crème Brûlée is like any other kitchen pursuit. It comes down to the right ingredients, the right methods, and practice. Soon you will be good enough to improvise.