Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Creme caramel, no it is not creme brulee...

The other day I decided to make French onion soup and the obvious dessert for me was creme caramel.

Creme caramel is the French version of  custard or flan with caramelized sugar on the bottom ( unlike creme brulee which has a light crust of caramelized sugar on the top and a very different rich custard beneath).
It is a standard dessert in every restaurant in Paris. I spent eight years of my childhood in Paris. My mother loved this simple dessert and would try it whenever we ate out ( or that's the way it seemed to me.)

This recipe is straight from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Yes, her recipes have lots of steps and can be intimidating, just like life, take it one step at a time.

Lining the dish with caramel.

1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons water

1) I use one large ceramic baking dish that holds at least 6 cups, you can also do small ramekins.
The recipe calls for the dish to be warm. I fill the pan it sits in with hot water while I make the caramel.

2) Place the sugar and water in a small heavy bottom saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar.
3) Cook over moderate heat and allow to come to a boil. Watch it carefully !!

4) It will turn caramel colored fairly quickly.
5) When the sugar has turned color, remove the pan from the stove and pour into the dish which has been removed form the hot water, swirl it around so that it covers the bottom of the dish.

(Sidebar, cool thing...have you ever had a dessert with spun sugar ?? My sister used to make this fanciful yule log dessert complete with meringue mushrooms and spun sugar spider webs. It was impressive... you can use the caramelized sugar to make those spider webs.)

Making the custard. 
Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2 1/2 cup milk
1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup white sugar
3 eggs
3 egg yolks

1) Bring the milk with the vanilla bean if you are using one to just below a simmer in a saucepan.
2) Cover and allow to steep while you prepare the rest of the mixture.

3) For the next part you can use a Kitchenaid with a whisk attachment or do it by hand with a whisk.
4) Place the eggs and egg yolks in a mixing bowl, slowly mix in the sugar until light and foamy.

5) Continue beating while you very slowly add the hot milk ( minus the vanilla bean). This can be tedious and messy, just hang in there. Add the vanilla extract if you did not use a bean.

6) Strain the mixture into your dish with a sieve, this removes any weird little eggs bits or forgotten vanilla beans ;-)

7) Boil enough water to fill a baking pan that will hold your dish.

8) Place the pan and the dish of custard on the lower rack of your oven, then carefully pour in the boiling water.
9) Reduce the oven temperature to 325 and bake for 40 to 45 minutes.

10) I prefer to to serve my creme caramel chilled or at room temperature.  Either way it should rest for several hours or overnight in the fridge. Since I make it in a large dish, I don't bother to unmold the whole thing. Instead I scoop out the portions, serving them in small ramekins with the caramel sauce drizzled over. You can remover any caramel that sticks to the bottom with a tablespoon or two of boiling water.
The only problem with this dessert is that it disappears too quickly !!

1 comment:

  1. Taylor just made this last week. Mmmmmm. The only difference is that he makes it in single-servings. I think that's to keep us from fighting over it. :)