brûlé(e) [broo lay] adjective, noun
Sometimes used as an adjective as in “to brûlée; brulée-ing.” The literal definition of brûlée is “burned or burnt.”
The dessert crème brulée is possible the most frequent usage of the word. The “brulée” references the burned, crunchy topping made from caramelized sugar which tops the classic creamy French custard. In professional kitchens, we often take liberties and it is not unusual to hear someone saying, “go brûlée the top of that custard.” So in this vein, we have what we refer to as “brulée-ing,” which is the action of creating a glassy sugar crust, whether on top of a custard or otherwise.
To achieve the best possible results, use a hand-held butane or propane torch, as opposed to under the broiler, as there is more control with the hand-held tool. While you can find small butane-fueled torches in cookware-specialty shops, you can also just go to the hardware store and buy a classic blow torch powered by propane. The major benefits to using a torch is that you can easily move the heat source around, making sure the sugar melts evenly and completely without burning and also without heating up and possibly liquefying the custard. The benefit to the broiler is that you don’t need to buy an extra tool. Either way, brûlée your dessert right before serving.