Eggnog crème brûlée is the perfect dessert for Christmas dinner. Velvety and rich with an indulgently delicious brûléed sugar topping, this eggnog crème brûlée adds the flavors of rum and nutmeg to the classic crème brûlée custard base. With only five ingredients, this simple dessert can be made in advance and brûléed just prior to serving. Read on for a few tips and trick, including how to make the pretty candied cranberry garnish, or scroll to the recipe and start baking!
Crème brûlée is one of the first “fancy” desserts that I mastered in the kitchen. I put quotes on fancy because once you understand it, it’s not really that fancy at all. It may look fancy and it may be served in fancy restaurants, but really it’s just a basic custard with torched sugar on top. Like many custards it is the basis for things like pies, tarts, ice cream, and even a cooked version of homemade eggnog.
On my first attempt I made a mess and curdled the eggs. Then I threw it all out, gave up and opened a bottle of wine. A few months later, with a little more experimentation, I finally got it right and shared my Lemon Crème Brûlée for Valentine’s Day.
I’ve made many versions of crème brûlée since then, but the one I like best during the holiday season will always be eggnog crème brûlée. It’s smooth and creamy, like any custard should be, but the hint of rum and nutmeg make it taste like the holidays.
Can I make eggnog crème brûlée without eggnog?
When creating this recipe, this was my first question. Afterall, the ingredients in most homemade eggnogs are white sugar, eggs, milk, cream, nutmeg, and rum (or other alcohol or alcohol extract of your choice.) When looking from an ingredient standpoint, the main difference between eggnog and crème brûlée is that eggnog is flavored with nutmeg and rum. So, like any good recipe blogger, I tested a nutmeg and rum flavored crème brûlée.
While the result were good, they weren’t magical and for Christmas we want magical! What I learned is that when making eggnog crème brûlée you must use eggnog that has had a chance to age at least 8 hours or overnight. This aging process allows the flavors to meld in a way that they don’t when making a flavored custard and baking it immediately. It’s like making spaghetti sauce and eating it right away instead of letting it simmer for hours. It’s good, but it’s not yet great.
That said, if you don’t have eggnog, making a rum and nutmeg flavored custard totally works, but you have to let the custard age overnight before baking. If you keep eggnog on hand during the holiday season, this version using actual eggnog is just better.
What kind of eggnog is best for eggnog crème brûlée?
The best kind of eggnog for eggnog crème brûlée is the kind of eggnog that you like. Seriously. Want to use grandpa’s secret family recipe? You can. Prefer to use a non-alcoholic version? Go for it! You like the store bought stuff? It works too.
As long as the consistency of the eggnog is somewhere between that of 2% milk and half and half, it will work for this recipe. If yours is thinner, I’d question if it’s actually eggnog. If it’s thicker, you can thin it out with a splash or two of milk. It really is that flexible. If you haven’t found your ideal recipe for homemade eggnog, you can start here:
- House of Nash Eats – Non-alcoholic Eggnog (Cooked with just yolks – I used this one this year.)
- Gastronom – Tom & Jerry (The original warm eggnog with brandy.)
- Alton Brown – Aged Eggnog (High alcohol content, age for 4 – 6 months <– yes months.)
- The Chunky Chef – Blender Eggnog (Quick, not cooked, use pasteurized eggs or add alcohol.)
How to Brûlée Eggnog Crème Brûlée
There are many recipes out there that claim you can use the broiler in your oven to brûlée your crème brûlée. I’m not saying they are wrong, but whenever I’ve tried to use the broiler I end up with uneven results, burnt spots, and even parts with raw sugar. You know what’s easier? Getting an inexpensive kitchen torch and using that instead. You can find them on Amazon between $12 and $30, and once you own it you’ll find many more ways to use it. I’ve linked to mine in the kitchen tools section just above the recipe. Don’t forget to add the butane to your order too!
When brûléeing with a culinary torch there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t skimp on the sugar! You need a thin even layer to caramelize without burning the custard below.
- Keep the flame constantly moving.
- Hold it close enough to touch the dessert, but not too close.
- Most have a safety switch that will automatically turn them off when you release the button. If yours doesn’t, do not set it down while it’s still on.
- If the sugar flames up, extinguish it out before the whole dessert burns.
Candied Cranberry Garnish
I like to garnish my eggnog crème brûlée with candied cranberries. They are a sweet, crunchy topping, that adds more of the flavors of the season. There are many methods for making candied cranberries and of course I have my own. After snacking on them all week long they have become my favorite sweet treat of the season. I ran out of time to give it a post of it’s own, but here are the basics. You’ll want to start them a day in advance.
Combine 1/2 cup sugar and half a cup water in a small pan. Heat over medium flame until sugar melts. Add 12 oz of cranberries, cover, remove from flame and allow to cool one to two hours. Pour cranberries and syrup into an airtight container and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. Strain the cranberries from the syrup (save the syrup for cocktails, cranberry mimosas, homemade sodas, etc).
Place 1/2 cup of sugar in the bottom of a small dinner plate. Pour on the strained, but still sticky cranberries. Top with an additional 1/2 cup of sugar. Stir with a spoon to coat, then move sugar coated cranberries to a clean plate and dry, uncovered, in the fridge, about an hour. The pink sugar can also be dried out and reused for other festive holiday treats. Candied cranberries with their crunchy sugar coating will last for a week or so in the fridge as long as they are uncovered.
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Eggnog Crème Brûlée Recipe
Decadently delicious, eggnog crème brûlée makes the perfect ending for your holiday meal. You can’t beat a dessert of creamy custard with hints of nutmeg and rum hidden under a crunchy layer of brûléed sugar topped with candied cranberries. It may look fancy, but with only five ingredients it’s easier than you would expect.
Eggnog crème brûlée can be made in advance, but do not brûlée the tops until just before serving. They will keep covered in the fridge for 2 – 3 days, or can be stored in the freezer for 2 – 3 months. Allow them to thaw overnight in the fridge for the best texture. DO NOT THAW IN THE MICROWAVE OR HOT WATER. I wrap mine with aluminum foil and place in a zip top freezer bag for freezer storage.
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Eggnog Crème Brûlée
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup eggnog
Crème Brûlée Topping
- 5 TBSP white sugar - divided
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 16 - 20 candied cranberries optional - see notes
- Heat oven to 300 degrees. Boil water for the water bath, preferably in a tea kettle for easy pouring. Place four 5 ounce ramekins into a 8x8 or 9x9 square pan.
- Separate egg yolks from the whites, reserving the whites for another recipe.
- Whisk together sugar and egg yolks in a medium sized bowl until it lightens in color and takes on a thick, creamy texture.
- Heat cream and eggnog over medium heat until bubbles start to form at the edge. About 5 minutes. Stir occasionally and do not let it boil.
- Temper the egg yolks by slowly adding about 1/2 cup of the warmed eggnog and cream into the egg yolk mixture, while whisking constantly. Once incorporated repeat with another 1/2 cup of warm eggnog and cream. Then add the yolk, eggnog, cream mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining eggnog and cream. Adding the hot cream too quickly to the egg yolks will result in scrambled eggs.
- Divide the custard mixture equally into the ramekins. Create the water bath by pouring the boiling water into the pan until it's half way up the side of the ramekins. Careful not to pour water into the custard.
- Loosely cover with aluminum foil and bake 30 - 35 minutes or until centers are set. To test lightly jiggle the pan. The centers should jiggle like jello.
- Cool to room temperature then refrigerate for a minimum of three hours.
- Cover each ramekin with 1 1/2 tsp of white sugar, adjusting for ramekin width if needed. Brulee the tops with a kitchen torch until the sugar is caramelized. Dust with nutmeg and top with optional candied cranberries.
Combine 1/2 cup sugar and half a cup water in a small pan. Heat over medium flame until sugar melts. Add 12 oz of cranberries, cover, remove from flame and allow to cool one to two hours. Pour cranberries and syrup into an airtight container and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. Strain the cranberries from the syrup (save the syrup for cocktails, cranberry mimosas, homemade sodas, etc). Place 1/2 cup of sugar in the bottom of a small dinner plate. Pour on the strained, but still sticky cranberries. Top with an additional 1/2 cup of sugar. Stir with a spoon to coat, then move sugar coated cranberries to a clean plate and dry, uncovered, in the fridge, about an hour. The pink sugar can also be dried out and reused for other festive holiday treats. Candied cranberries with their crunchy sugar coating will last for a week or so in the fridge as long as they are uncovered.