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Monday, October 1, 2012

Baker's Corner - Crème caramel (Step by step preparation)




Crème caramel (also called Flan or Caramel custard) is a custard dessert with a layer of soft caramel on top, as opposed to Crème brûlée, which is custard with a hard caramel top. This simple dessert is enjoyed throughout the world and features as a staple on many dessert menus. 

I don't really have a sweet tooth. I like eating sweet treats occasionally but I'm not the kind who craves for confectionery or desserts. I actually don't even like ice-cream (many of my friends actually gasp when I mention this!). I am not very fond of traditional Indian sweets either. When I think of what I order at a restaurant at the end of a meal (which is not very often), there are only three desserts that pop into my mind - one would be Apple pie (my most favourite dessert in the whole world), another would be Cheesecake and the third would be either Crème caramel or Crème brûlée. 

I tried this recipe for Crème caramel last weekend as a practice attempt for when I would have guests over for dinner in the future. I came across the recipe by accident when I was casually browsing the Foodgawker gallery. The photo had me drooling and I immediately pinned it on my 'Must-try' food board in Pinterest. Having the dubious distinction of being as obstinate as a mule, if I once decide to try out a recipe, I will not rest until I see it through, come rain or shine! How glad am I that my stubborn nature comes in handy once in a while :) It was one of those baking attempts that had me squealing with delight at the end of it! I get very animated when a recipe I try out for the first ever time turns out the way it is supposed to. I feel jubilant....that is until the next inevitable kitchen disaster strikes! But then again, this baking venture did have its fair share of drama...

In this recipe, sugar is heated to a caramel stage and poured into a mold before adding the custard base. It is then cooked in the oven in a water bath. The recipe called for the Crème caramel to be prepared in a large saucepan and then sliced into individual portions. But I wanted to use individual dessert moulds because I had acquired four new round metallic moulds and was eager to use them. After going through the ingredient quantities, I felt that six moulds would be required for this recipe. I already had the four metallic moulds so I decided to use two small ceramic bowls that I had with me to top up to six. The dilemma I had was that I didn't have a large enough tray that would act as a water bath to fit all six moulds at once. I decided to make them in two batches - using the four metallic moulds first and then the two ceramic moulds. The first batch didn't turn out perfect because I slightly over caramelized the sugar. The sugar had reached a lovely color but after turning off the heat, I failed to proceed with the next step immediately which resulted in the residual heat turning the sugar a darker shade, just short of chocolate brown. Slightly dejected, I proceeded with the recipe instructions anyway and when I loosened the moulds, the Crème caramel slid out cleanly and was perfectly set although it was obvious that the sugar was over browned (my hubby thought it was fine though....he likes burnt stuff!). I was much more careful with the second attempt using the ceramic moulds and the squealing with delight (that I mentioned earlier) was the reaction to this attempt! I could have been a little more careful and neater with the un-moulding process (I'll blame that on over-enthusiasm!) to get a smoother contour but hey, this was only a practice attempt right? Perfection can wait until the next time :)


Just four core ingredients (all of which you will most likely have at home), a simple procedure, the advantage of being able to prepare it in advance and the joy of creating something so pretty makes this recipe a winner!

Preparation time: ~ 20 mins
Baking time: 50 mins
Recipe level: Easy
Makes: 6 individual crème caramel desserts
Shelf life: Keeps in the refrigerator for up to a week. 
Source: Adapted from here

Ingredients:

3 cups whole milk
1 tsp good quality vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla bean
1/8 tsp salt
6 eggs
6 tbsp caster sugar for the custard
1 cup caster sugar for the caramel
Berries such as strawberries, raspberries or blueberries for decoration (Optional)

You will also need
6 round oven-safe moulds (metal/ceramic) that can hold ~100 ml volume 
A large oven-safe tray that can hold 6 moulds

Method:
1. Keep the ingredients ready. The eggs should preferably be at room temperature.  As you can see, I couldn't find good quality vanilla so I had to settle for the cheap stuff :(

2. Boil the milk with the vanilla extract and salt over medium‐high heat. Once done, remove from heat and set aside
3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and 6 tablespoons of sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved.
4. Preheat the oven to 325 deg F (160 deg C)
5. Melt 1 cup of sugar in a sauce pan over medium‐low heat. Do not stir but swirl intermittently. Heat until the sugar is dissolved and turns golden orange. Watch it carefully so that it doesn’t burn. Switch off the heat and take the pan off the stove. Keep in mind that the sugar can turn from a lovely golden orange to a burnt chocolate brown within a matter of seconds! Proceed to the next step immediately (see step 8). 
6. While the sugar is caramelizing, very slowly add the milk to the eggs, whisking constantly. You wouldn't want to scramble the eggs so this step must be done carefully. Once the milk is incorporated, continue whisking the cream until it cools. At this stage, the consistency of the cream will be quite thin. Strain  the cream using a fine sieve once to remove any lumps (if present). 




7. Arrange the moulds in a large ovenproof dish such that they sit flat and there is some space between the moulds. 
8. Once the sugar turns golden, take it off the heat and immediately pour it into the moulds until 1/4 of the mould fills up. Do this step quickly because the sugar will begin to solidify within seconds. 
9. Now pour the cream into the moulds containing the caramelized sugar. Pour boiling water in the outer tray to create a water bath. Make sure the water comes up about 1/3 of the way of the moulds. 
10. Bake the custard for 50 minutes on level 2 of the oven, until the cream is set yet remains jiggly. A knife inserted into the custard will come out clean when done.



11. Remove the tray from the oven and let the moulds cool while remaining in the water bath. After a minimum of an hour, remove the moulds from the water bath, cover with aluminum foil and place it in the refrigerator for a minimum of an hour or up to 24‐hours.  
12. Loosen the sides of the custard from the moulds using a blunt knife, place a plate over the mould and invert with a gently tap to release the custard.  
And with a berry on top......TA DA!


13. Serve as it is or with berries of your choice. 


Notes:
  • If you find the process of using individual moulds too troublesome for this recipe, you could use a 3-quart sauce pan to caramelize the sugar and then pour the whisked cream into the same saucepan. You can then use a 5-quart pot of boiling water as the water bath. You will get a single large Crème Caramel which you will then have to cut into quarter slices and then serve. 
  • Increase the amount of sugar slightly in this recipe if you like your desserts on the sweeter side
  • While adding boiling water into the outer tray to create a water bath, take care not to spill the water into the moulds containing the cream and caramelized sugar

12 comments:

  1. love the photos, keeps getting better (super colors). Looks really yummy. Did not realize that it was easy to make without store bought instant powder. Nice to see ur arsenal of bake-ware has increased :D

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  2. Looks delicious, the step by step pictures are very helpful. Will surely try it sometime. :)

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  3. Thanks guys. Yeah my bake-ware is increasing at an alarming rate. I'm finding a shortage of space in my kitchen to stow them away! Yeah please do try this dessert....it turns out great but it tastes slightly 'eggy' so I'm not sure if it will be to ur liking. Maybe if u add the vanilla bean, it will completely mask the taste of the eggs. Anyway, try and let me know :)

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  4. Beautiful presentation of the dessert! To be honest, I've never eaten anything like that.

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  5. You've made the regular creme caramel look so glamorous! Lovely!

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  6. Looks yummy and I m sure it tastes heavenly too:) quick question megha , any replacement for the eggs??

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  7. Megha, it looks yummy and I am sure it tastes yummy too:) quick question, any replacement for the eggs??

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  8. Hi Aarthi. I've never tried this recipe without eggs before but it can be done. I would suggest using store-bought vanilla custard powder and agar as a substitute. You can prepare the custard according to the package instructions (adjust the sweetness to ur taste), dissolve agar powder/flakes in hot water, add to the custard and mix for a minute on a low simmer. You can sieve the custard and add in into mould containing the hardened caramel and refrigerate until set. This method eliminates the need for any baking :)

    Hope this helps!

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  9. Hey megha,

    I just happened to come upon your blog, and surprisingly enough, we seem to frequent the same food blogs!.. :)

    Your creme caramel seems to be perfectly turned out! :)

    I read that you thought they were a little eggy though, if you don't mind taking my suggestion, then cook the creme caramel in a water bath, for 20 minutes at 170 degrees. Just make sure you cover the ramekins with aluminium foil.

    Another thing i'd like to mention is that i've tried a coffee version of this same dessert that is to DIE for! in case you ever want to try it:

    http://greencilantro.blogspot.in/2011/08/coffee-creme-caramel.html

    Keep up the great work!

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  10. Hi Varsha. Thank you for stopping by and for your suggestion. I will surely try it! You probably won't believe me but I was thinking of making coffee flavored creme caramel just this morning! How is that for coincidence?! :)

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