This is the proudest moment of my cooking history (as short as it is). This Crème Caramel above is definitely not the most perfect (look at the pesky rips and bubbles in the custard) nor the most artisan caramel pudding around, but I am so so so proud of it because I can now make it for my mother who loves this. :)
Crème Caramel is my childhood memory – My mummy Jenny’s favourite dessert, one which I grew up eating and never got sick of. However, she never got around to perfecting this at home simply because there is so much that can go wrong with the tedious custard-making process. And so I dedicate this post to my beautiful mother, whom I dearly love to bits. And if you’re wondering why I chose to publish it on the 3rd of May, it’s because it’s my dearest mother’s birthday today! Happy Birthday my dearest Ma! :)
Anyway, some background information before we proceed to the recipe:
What is Crème Caramel?
Also known as Flan, or Caramel Pudding, it’s simply a French custard-pudding with a soft layer of caramel. Its more popular cousin Creme Brulee is a more eggy custard-pudding with a hard caramel glaze.
What is a Ramekin?
A small glazed ceramic bowl used for making this dessert, other desserts and other food that’d look good in a small bowl. Think soufflé or cocktail shrimps!
Ingredients for Crème Caramel: Serves 2-3 (depending on how big your ramekins are)
For the Caramel
100g granulated white sugar, no lumps please
2 tablespoons hot water
For the Custard-Pudding
75ml whole milk
150ml single cream
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
For the baking/water bath/chilling
Deep casserole dish
Step-By-Step: Crème Caramel
Step 1: Make your own Caramel
Soon it will turn into a rusty brown, the consistency of a semi-runny honey. Before it turns into this colour, take the saucepan off the stove and carefully add in the two tablespoons of hot water. Be extremely careful because it will splatter quite violently.
The hot water, I’d learnt, prevents the caramel from discolouring into black. It also stops it from becoming bitter, which is too easy to happen!
Most recipes require us to coat the sides of the ramekins too but I find it too much of a hassle, because it’ll coat by itself later anyway. Here’s my half-hearted, faux-artistic attempt at coating the sides of the ramekin.
Step 2: The glorious custard-pudding in the making
Free range eggs are awesome. I’m a convert! Whisk lightly, combining the egg yolks and whites without incorporating excessive air. Leave aside.
There should be some caramel left over in the sauce – Don’t trash that yet! At medium-low setting, pour in the milk and cream, and gently stir until all the caramel is incorporated into the milky broth.
Stir for 10-15 minutes. At the very last step, add tablespoon of condensed milk. This is purely optional (and not too orthodox-Purist) but I find that it thickens and sweetens the potion quite perfectly.
Slowly pour into the whisked eggs. Don’t pour everything in at one go and cook the eggs! Whisk lightly, don’t incorporate too much air.
And pour into the ramekins when done!
Step 3: Water-bath for the ramekins
Pre-heat oven to Gas Mark 2.
Let the ramekins settle until all the air bubbles seem to have disappeared. Tap on the sides of the ramekin with a spoon to remove air bubbles – It works! Then place into the deep casserole dish (I used a baking tin here because I didn’t have a deep enough casserole dish).
Fill with hot water, 2/3 up the ramekins. Yes, science students, this is a water bath for the custard! Place into center rack of heated oven and slowly bake for 45minutes until custard has set.
How to check if the custard has set? It should be firm and springy to the touch! Note that the colour of the pudding has darkened… It’s normal, because the caramel is seeping into the pudding!
Let the custard cool for a good 1 hour or so.
Once it has completely cooled, cover entirely with cling wrap. And pop into fridge for a 4-6 hours, to allow the custard to set properly.
Step 4: De-mould and serve!
Just when you thought you can finally dig in after all the effort… Wait, not yet.
Using a sharp, preferably long knive, gently scrape the sides of the ramekin. Go slow and easy – It’s a very important step that can go terribly wrong with impatience. At this point, a runny syrup would be leaking from the sides – Just let it run onto the serving plate.
And tada, Crème Caramel, best enjoyed cold on its own. How sweet can life get? The moment my teeth sank into the cold, creamy custard, I just couldn’t stop eating it thereafter. So much effort, but so worth it!
Note: There’s really no “perfect method” of making Crème Caramel – I’d checked out more than 10 recipes on my own and the permutations of the proportions of milk, cream, type of cream, eggs etc. are too overwhelming! You might not agree with some of my steps, the addition of condensed milk, amongst others… I’d recommend you to experiment a few times and decide on a recipe that fits you best.
My deepest regret is the air bubbles from the whisking, which are visually distracting and discounted the silky texture of the custard. Do check out this website and recipe with lots of tips on removing air bubbles, demoulding the ramekins etc. This blogger is really THE expert on crème caramel: http://www.cocoandme.com/2008/01/17/the-ultimate-creme-caramel-recipe-with-photographs-of-the-process/
Posted by #phangchewfat