This dessert is a very easy dessert to make -- yet it's rarely ever found other than in fine dining restaurants. It can be made in a large quantity and served to large banquets almost as easy as it is to make in a small restaurant, and almost everybody I know who has tried it loves it.
The term "Crème Brûlée" itself is French, directly translated as "burnt cream." It's a cold, rich custard that's sprinkled with sugar, then caramelized with a torch or under a broiler. The caramelized top then becomes brittle, creating a great flavor and contrast in texture to the creamy rich custard underneath.
The custard itself is a very rich one consisting of egg yolks, sugar, and cream. The custard is set by baking it in the oven in a water bath (in a pan of water that goes most of the way up the molds), chilled, then coated with either brown or granulated sugar and caramelized with a torch or under a broiler. If you have a torch, a thin coating of granulated sugar is recommended, as the torch will give it a very nice bruleed texture. Otherwise, if you're using a broiler, a thin layer of brown sugar will caramelize much more evenly.
There are variations to the classic creme brule also. There's the creme caramel, which is the same custard baked in a mold that's been coated with caramel, then turned over and removed from the mold to give you a caramel glazed and sauced dessert. Other flavorings can be added to the custard as well, such as ginger, cardamom, lavender, or even cooked fruits.