Thursday, October 11, 2012

Recipe: Creme Caramel

This perennial favourite desert was a special request when my daughter recently came to visit.  This is for you Edwina. (Plus, we had just been to the dairy and had lots of lovely fresh milk and eggs).

You might wonder why I am bothering to post a recipe for such a popular dish (there must be thousands of variations on the net) - it's just that this one works, and I have tried so many that don't.  I think it's good to have a repertoire of 'tried and trusted recipes' up your sleeve - ones that require few ingredients, simple to make, turn out the way one expects and taste delicious.

Creme caramel, originating in France, has been around for centuries and been adopted by many other cultures as a national dish.  I love anything caramel and will always choose 'caramely' dishes on restaurant menus. I have particularly happy memories of a trip to Europe in the 1980's - especially travelling around Portugal with our three children. It seemed that we ate dozens of versions of this dessert (and omelette) probably because they were written in French and were the only thing we could read on the menu! I can have a stab at most languages that I come across, but Portuguese absolutely defeats me.

It's a simple dessert to make - just the caramel process requires some patience.  It's like riding a bike - it's easy once you get the hang of it.  This recipe is one I have 'tweeked' over the years to be 'fail-proof' - so here goes!
TIP:  It's better made the day before as it needs to be thoroughly chilled before you can turn it out.

5 eggs
500 ml milk
2 tbs caster sugar

Caramel
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup water

1.  Heat oven to 160oC
2.  To make caramel, dissolve sugar in water in a small saucepan over a moderate heat.
3.  Bring syrup to boil and simmer steadily until a deep-golden caramel.
TIP:  Watch like a hawk - this may take 5-10 minutes.  It can burn very quickly once the colour starts to change.
4.  Remove from heat and allow any bubbles to subside, then pour straight away into an oven-proof dish.  (I use a straight sided souffle dish for this).  Tip the caramel around so that it coats the sides evenly.
5.  To make custard, lightly whisk together eggs and sugar and pour onto milk.
6.  Whisk, then strain into caramel-lined dish.
7.  Place dish in a baking dish and pour in hot water to come halfway up sides - you are, in effect, steaming the custard (this is called a bain marie)
8.  Bake at 160oC for 45 minutes until just set (it will be firm to touch).
9.  Remove custard immediately from baking dish and refrigerate overnight.
10.  To serve, place a deep plate over custard and carefully invert.


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