There are many classic French foods found throughout the world, none more so than a Crème au caramel - also known as crème caramel. This silky, unctuous dessert is a show stopper for a dinner party but is equally at home on the tea table.
Not only is the flavor mellow, sophisticated, and versatile; this bistro classic can be made up to one day in advance. Served in an impressive pool of homemade caramel, it needs no garnish other than an attractive plate.
- 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 8 large eggs, beaten
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Boiling water
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt and caramelize 1/2 cup of the sugar. Shake the pan occasionally to stir the sugar and evenly distribute the color. The sugar is caramelized when it has turned a uniform light tan color. Note: Watch this process very carefully, you cannot walk away, as it can catch very quickly and go from lovely golden to black in a few seconds.
Evenly divide the caramel between 8 ovenproof ramekins. Swirl the caramel inside each ramekin to coat the sides and bottoms completely. Arrange the ramekins in a 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch deep baking pan.
Preheat and oven to 325F.
In a clean saucepan over medium heat, stir together the milk and cream just until it begins to scald, about 5 to 7 minutes. Do not allow the liquid to simmer or boil at any time. Remove the pan from the heat.
Stir together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the eggs. Allow the sugar-egg mixture to rest for 5 minutes. Slowly add 2/3 cup of the hot cream mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly. Stirring constantly, add the tempered eggs and cream back into the hot cream in the saucepan. Stir in the salt and vanilla extract.
Carefully pour the hot cream mixture into the ramekins. Pour boiling water into the pan holding the ramekins until the water level reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake the custard for 30 to 35 minutes, until the custard is just set. (Overcooking will remove the silky texture for which crème au caramel is famous.)
Remove from the oven and allow the ramekins to cool in the water bath for 5 minutes. Remove from the water and cool the custard at room temperature for 20 minutes.
Run an offset spatula or butter knife around the edges of each ramekin and invert the custards onto serving plates. Serve them at room temperature or chill for up to a day before serving.
This crème caramel recipe makes 8 servings.