Monday, October 11, 2010


I remember way back, I’m in this swanky French restaurant in Manhattan. It is thoroughly very nice. The words on the menu are in French and the waiters have French names and even French accents. I eat a charming fish course and a lovely soup. Today I can barely remember the meal except for the dessert. Finishing the dinner I’m quite full, but the waiter offers me a Crème Caramel and says it’s a perfect light dessert to top off my meal. How can I vocally say no? To this day I recall that tasty custard for all its deliciousness.

The other day I’m going down the aisles in my local market with my BW (beautiful wife), the Tipster. I come by little boxes of a dry powder “Flan” mix. The picture on the box looks a lot like Crème Caramel, but when I read the box, the artificial contents are turning my stomach off.

The Crème Caramel I know is a classic French dessert. Other places know it as Flan. No matter what you call it, when you make it right, it’s a terrific crowd-pleaser. It can be very simple to make if you pay attention to the principles of custard making. Forget that instant packaged stuff; make it from scratch, you don’t have to be a French pastry baker to make a great Crème Caramel.

The most beautiful, yet easiest presentation method will employ those small ramekins or custard cups you may have lying around already, and perhaps never used. They’re good to have. I like to mould jambalaya in them and invert onto plates, but I am digressing.

Here is how to make 8 servings of Crème Caramel that will come out perfect and impress your guests. Tell your taste buds to be patient, they will be rewarded.

For the Caramel:
1 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of water
2 tablespoons of light corn syrup (facilitates nice caramelization)
Dash of lemon juice
8 clean, 6 ounce, oven-proof ramekins. Please do NOT grease them.

For the Custard:
1 ½ cups of whole milk (must use whole milk)
1 ½ cups of light cream
3 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks (equals 5 egg yolks and 3 egg whites)
2/3 cup of sugar
1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
A thermometer to read the temperature of the custard (such as one used to measure deep frying oil or for making candy).

To make the Caramel:

· In a medium saucepan, bring all ingredients to a gentle simmer over medium heat by
swirling, not stirring.
· Wipe the side of the pan if you see crystals adhering. Use a wet cloth to do this.
· Swirl the pan around while it heats up, and soon it will turn from clear to golden coloured.
· Keep swirling the pan to get even browning, which should take about 7 minutes or so.
· Keep swirling and watching. After awhile, large, slow bubbling will appear on the surface.
· Swirl another 3 or 4 minutes and a nice caramel should be visible.
· Very carefully (it’s HOT), pour evenly into the ramekins.
· Let it cool and harden for about twenty minutes. (If you want to do this step a day ahead of
time, cover them with plastic film wrap and refrigerate. But bring to room temperature
before adding the custard).

To make the Custard:

· Turn your oven on to 350F (177C) and place the rack in the centre.
· Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
· Stir and using the thermometer, look for a reading of 160F (71C), takes a few minutes.
· Remove from the heat.
· Gently whisk the eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a big bowl until combined, do not overbeat.
· Off heat, gently whisk the warm milk mixture, vanilla extract and salt into the eggs until
just mixed, but not foamy.
· Strain the mixture through a fine mesh into a quart measuring cup or any container that
has a pouring spout. Then set aside.
· Boil 2 quarts (2 litres) of water.
· Get a dishtowel and fit it to the bottom of a large roasting pan. You can fold it to fit, no
· Pour the custard mixture into the ramekins and place them atop the towel in the pan. Don’t
let them touch each other.
· Put the pan on the oven rack and pour boiling water into the pan, halfway up the sides of
the ramekins.
· Cover loosely with foil to allow steam to pass.
· Bake about 40 minutes, check after 35 to see how it looks. Stick a knife in the centre; it
should come up clean when done.
Now put the custards on a rack to cool off.

When you get ready to serve them, slide a paring knife around the sides of the ramekins, actually pressing the knife against the sides. Invert the custards onto a serving plate shaking gently to release them. Now enjoy them.

This preparation will produce excellent Crème Caramels. There is some detail to this method, but it makes the dessert come out wonderful and ensures success. Evaporated milk or condensed milk methods really do no compare. You don’t have to, but you can shave some dark chocolate on the caramel or some toasted coconut flakes.

Your guests may forget the entrée you served, but the Crème Caramel will be among their fondest memories, because these groceries are that good, I tell you.


Soma said...

This is one of our fav. desserts. mmmmm...

anthony stemke said...

Thank You Soma. I am following your beautiful blog. Love the music.

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