Crème caramel is delicious, and you should make it.
It has five (mostly very cheap) ingredients, that you honestly probably have at home right now. It does require a little care and patience, but is really not very tricky. Spend the afternoon filling your house with the smell of warm milk and friendliness, and then eat lots of custard. Win win.
I use vanilla to flavour the custard here but you can infuse the milk with all sorts of things. Cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cardamom pods, nutmeg, or strips of citrus zest would all be very delicious.
The basic ratio for crème caramel is very easily adapted. 1 egg + 125ml milk = 2 cremes. To enrich the custard you can replace one of your eggs with 2 yolks, and a portion of the milk with cream, as I have here. It will be delicious.
My thanks to Niki Segnit and her spectacular book Lateral Cooking, on which this recipe is based.
Yield: approximately 6x100ml cremes. The dishes I’ve used are a mix of 150ml metal ramekins and 100ml ceramic ones. If you, unlike me, have 6 the same, my preference is for the metal 150ml kind filled 2/3 full for easier maneuvering.
For the custard:
- 300ml whole milk
- 75ml cream
- 1 vanilla pod, or 1 teaspoon paste/extract .
- 2 eggs + 2 egg yolks (freeze the extra egg whites to make something else)
- 70g caster sugar
For the caramel:
- 100g caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons boiling water
Pour the milk and cream into a medium saucepan. Slice open the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds. Put the seeds and the pod into the saucepan. Over a medium heat, bring the milk mixture up to just below boiling. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for at least 15 minutes, and up to an hour, while you get on with everything else. If using vanilla paste or extract, ignore this whole step! You’ll be whisking it into the eggs later instead.
Next, prepare the caramel. Put the sugar and boiling water into a small heavy-based saucepan, and place over a medium heat. Keep a close eye on it until it has turned a rich dark caramel colour (honestly, I should have gone one or two shades darker than the photos you see here, you want rich caramel flavour, not sugar syrup. Be brave). This can take anything between 2 and 30 minutes, it will depend on the heat of your hob, the thickness of your pan, and the depth of the sugar in the pan. You can gently swirl and shake the pan to make sure its heating evenly, but try not to spread the sugar all up the sides. I hope it goes without saying that you must not ever taste or touch boiling sugar until you are sure it has cooled, or you’re gonna have a bad time.
As soon as the caramel is ready, pour a small amount into the base of each ramekin and tilt to ensure the caramel is coating the whole base of the dish. Place the ramekins in a large roasting tin or similar and put to one side while you prepare the custard. Fill the caramel pan with water and leave to soak for a few hours. The hardened caramel will dissolve all by itself, no scrubbing required.
Preheat the oven to 140°C.
Reheat the milk mixture over a medium heat until just below boiling. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, yolks, and sugar together in a medium bowl until well combined. Add the vanilla paste/extract now if using instead of a pod. Very gradually, stream the hot milk into the eggs, while whisking. Strain the custard through a sieve into a jug, then carefully pour into the caramel lined dishes.
Fill the roasting tin with hot water until it’s about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Be careful not to pour water into the custard, it will make you sad. Cover the roasting tin loosely with a piece of tin foil. This will prevent the custards from forming an unpleasant skin on top, by creating a more gentle, steamy environment. Transfer carefully to your preheated oven, and bake for about 30 minutes. I usually check after twenty or so, and then every five minutes until they have just a slight wobble.
Remove from the oven and lift carefully out of the roasting tin. Leave to cool to room temperature, then leave to chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours, and up to two days. You may wish to cover the custards with clingfilm or similar if there is anything strong smelling also living the the fridge, custard will absorb smells quite easily.
To serve, carefully run a sharp knife around the edge, and upend onto plates. If the custard is not releasing from the dish, try sitting it in a dish of warm water for a few minutes to loosen, or carefully but firmly shaking the dish and plate together until it releases.
Serve, to rapturous applause.