There was a time when you couldn’t go out to eat at a restaurant without being offered a creme caramel for dessert. They were as ubiquitous as molten chocolate cakes and their spiritual custard cousin, crème brûlée. Then they just disappeared into the dark of night along with the rest of classic French cooking. I hadn’t thought about them much until I wrote “French Cooking For Beginners“, my new cookbook just released today (yes, a shameless plug). I was writing the recipe for crème brûlée and trying to please my editor who thought no one would buy a propane torch to caramelize the sugar. I thought about changing the entry to creme caramel because it is similar in many ways to a good crème brûlée and doesn’t require a torch.
I shelved the dessert until a friend on FaceBook kept asking about creme caramel. I dug through my old notebooks and came across a chocolate and cream spattered recipe. Since we all are on quarantine, I got my 9-year-old son dressed up and we even filmed making it for her. Upon eating it, I thought ‘what could possibly be better than a delicious dessert that is incredibly easy to make?’. Give this simple recipe a try. Troubled times call for comforting foods, even ones from the 1980s.
Creme Caramel in Just 3 Easy Steps
A creamy caramel custard.
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
how to make caramel
Have 4 8-ounce ramekins ready. In a heavy-gauge 2-quart saucepot, add the water and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the caramel starts to color, 5 to 7 minutes. Lower heat, and continue to cook until the sugar is a beautiful golden hue, another minute. Caramel burns super quickly once it starts to color.
Divide the caramel between each ramekin and swirl the caramel around the base. Be very careful not to burn yourself as sugar burns are the worst. Set aside until after you make the custard.
how to make the custard
Combine the milk, cream, and sugar 2-quart saucepot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk together the eggs, yolks, and vanilla in a stainless steel bowl, then slowly add the hot milk, whisking constantly. Strain the custard through a fine sieve back into the pot. Divide the custard evenly between the 4 ramekins.
Put all 4 ramekins into a larger pot and fill with hot water to about 1/2 up the sides of the ramekins. Bring to a simmer, then place the pot into the oven and bake until the custard is set, about 20 minutes. The custards will be jiggly like jello when they are cooked. Transfer ramekins to your refrigerator and let sit for 3 hours, or preferably overnight. Creme caramels can sit up to 3 days.
To serve, dip each ramekin in a bowl with hot water. Run a paring knife around the edge of each ramekin to loosen the custard. Place a plate over each ramekin and flip over quickly. The custard should pop out. If not, jiggle it a bit until it loosens.