I’m a big fan of crème brûlée, but for some reason have never warmed to crème caramel which has never made much sense to me.
Both are baked custards but crème caramel, also known as Crème Renversée Au Caramel (literally translated to “reversed cream”), is unmoulded and served upside-down.
The caramel is also poured into the moulds before the custard mixture, which means the dessert is self-saucing and I wonder if this is the issue for me. The crack of breaking into a crème brûlée is part of its appeal whereas the toffee element of a crème caramel is simply its sauce.
This is a recipe based on Julia Child’s and Neil Perry’s which are pretty much one and the same.
A couple of tips when making crème caramel:
- You want a tiny amount of bitterness to the caramel, so need to ensure it’s sufficiently coloured before taking it off the heat. Look for golden, about to turn brown and place the saucepan straight into a bowl of cold water to stop the caramel darkening any more.
- You want to avoid small bubbles forming in the custard, which is usually a sign that the custard has overcooked. The custard should still have a wobble to it, but still be cooked through. Usually you can test this with your finger by touching the top of the custard – it should spring a bit.
- Before you upturn the cooked custards, run a knife around the outside of the mould to loosen it and gently tap it onto a plate to release.
I looked around for garnishes to serve with the crème caramel, but found that most menus serve it on its own – you could always add a tuille or biscuit, or perhaps some macerated or glazed fruit like strawberries or figs.
I kept mine plain, and although the texture was smooth and silky my preference is still crème brûlée. I’ll be making panna cotta soon, so that will be another set custard to add to the mix.
1 litre milk
115g caster sugar
1 vanilla bean pod, split lengthways and seeds scraped out
6 egg yolk
For the caramel
225g caster sugar
Start the custard by combining the milk, sugar and vanilla in a saucepan and gently bring to the boil.
Take off the heat then set aside to cool and infuse.
Lightly whisk together the eggs and egg yolks, then pour over the milk mixture and combine well.
Prepare the caramel by bringing the sugar and 125ml water to a gentle simmer. Watch it carefully until it turns a deep caramel colour, then remove from the heat and place the saucepan into a bowl of cold water.
After a few seconds, pour into six metal moulds and swirl to coat the moulds halfway up their sides. The moulds may be hot, so hold by the edges with tongs or a tea towel.
Pour the custard into the moulds so they reach the top, and then place all moulds into a roasting tin and fill halfway with boiling water.
Cover the tin with foil and cook in an oven at 190C for 30 minutes or until set.
If you are serving them warm, leave them to cool for approximately 10 minutes and then unmould onto a plate.