Classic crème caramel

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The History

Crème caramel is, in essence, a custard dessert made with whipped cream eggs and topped with caramel.  Whilst, we traditionally think of it as a French dessert, there are actually a number of different variations, with different names.

The ancient Romans were the first to understand the binding capacity of eggs; they were also the first known to cook them with milk and honey, therefore creating a number of custard-like dishes.  The Medieval Arabs then arrived, bringing with them cane sugar to Southern Europe, as well as their love of custard.

Their cooks were skilled in using sugar to create pastries, nougats, syrups, and custards.  It was at this time that the Spaniards discovered discovered how to make a delicate and subtly sweet custard by blending eggs, cream and sugar and baking it in an earthware dish.

It was then the Moorish cooks who began to line the baking dish with a thin covering of caramelized sugar.

In Spain it is known as flan; and as cream caramella in Italy. Flan and crème caramel, both a mixture of sugar, flavorings and a milk product, differ in that flan is Spanish in origin and is made with sweetened condensed milk while crème caramel is French in origin and is made with whole milk or cream.

So there you go!

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My experience

I have, never, ever, ever attempted a dessert like this before.   I even had to ask for these lovely ramekins as part of my Christmas present to enable me to try this one.  But it was really easy. I can imagine if you only had half the recipe you could end up in a bit of bother, but with Mary’s tips, you just can’t go wrong.

I cannot offer you any more advice, other than what Mary says in the recipe below, along with her video.  It really is that simple.  Enjoy!

One other piece of advice,  is to watch the GBBO videos prior to attempting the bake.  This is to ensure you know all the tips of the trade, which really create the perfect bake.

You can find Mary’s how to video here.

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The Recipe

Makes 6

Ingredients

For the caramel
  • 160g/6oz sugar
  • unsalted butter, for greasing the ramekins
For the custard
  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 25g/1oz caster sugar
  • 600ml/1 pint full-fat milk
  • pouring cream, to serve

Equipment

  • 6 x size 1 (150ml/¼ pint) ramekins – buy them here
  • Stainless Steel Pan
  • Sieve
  • Cooling Rack
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Roasting tin
  • Palette Knife

Preparation method

  1. Pre-heat oven 150C/300F/Gas 2. Warm the ramekins in the oven, so they are warm when the caramel is poured in.
  2. First make the caramel. Pour the sugar and six tablespoons of water into a clean stainless steel pan.
  3. Dissolve the sugar slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon over a low heat.
  4. When there are no sugar granules left, stop stirring and boil until the sugar turns a dark copper colour.
  5. Remove immediately from the heat to ensure the caramel does not burn. Quickly pour the caramel into the warmed ramekins.
  6. Set aside to cool and become hard. (Do not put in the fridge because the sugar will absorb moisture and go soft and tacky).
  7. Once hard, butter the sides of the ramekins above the level of the caramel.
  8. For the custard, whisk the eggs, vanilla extract and caster sugar together in a bowl until well mixed.
  9. Pour the milk into a saucepan, gently heat over a low heat until you can still just dip your finger in for a moment, then strain the milk through a fine sieve onto the egg mixture in the bowl.
  10. Whisk together until smooth, then pour the mixture into the prepared ramekins.
  11. Stand the ramekins in a roasting tin and fill the tin half-way with boiling water from a kettle.
  12. Cook in the oven for about 20-30 minutes or until the custard has set. Do not overcook the custard – check around the edges of the dishes, to make sure no bubbles are appearing.
  13. Take the crème caramels out of the oven, remove the ramekins from the tray and set on a cooling rack. When cool, transfer to the fridge overnight so that the caramel is absorbed into the custard.
  14. To serve, loosen the sides of the custard by tipping the ramekin and loosen with a small palette knife round the edges. Place a serving dish on top of the ramekin and turn upside down. Serve with pouring cream

Recipe courtesy of bbc, full of more advice and videos

How did you get on with this technical challenge?  Please send me photos of your completed bakes for inclusion in the humble technical challenge gallery, so we can show off to Paul and Mary.

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The Taste

I made these for a dinner party and they were lovely, but they are even better if you can leave them for 24-48 hours to really infuse with the caramel flavour.

Not to blow my own trumpet, but I don’t know if you would have gotten better in a restaurant.  They were really quite impressive.  I felt quite the chef as they plopped out onto the plate.  Served with a little pouring cream, they looked the part of a swanky dining room.  Thank you Mary.  They did the job!

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2 thoughts on “Classic crème caramel

  1. Lovely looking creme caramel! Well done! But just a tip regarding the caramel for those who are scared of burning it. After the caramel has reached a dark amber colour it will continue to darken even removed from the heat and put into a pool of cold water as the saucepan will not cool down that quickly.

    The simplest way to stop it from burning at that stage is to add 1/2 to 1 tsp of cold water directly into the caramel (careful as it will splatter) and give the saucepan a quick swirl. This extra step is especially helpful if you are making a large volume of caramel. This will terminate the cooking straight away and your caramel will not darken.

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