Simple Creme Caramel
What to do when you just got back from vacation and the only things in the fridge are eggs and milk, and sugar in the pantry? This is what happened to us last week when we got home and my mother in law had nicely provided us with some essentials: eggs, milk and bread. We feasted on an omelette and grilled bread the next morning and after filling up on groceries, my brain was still foggy and jetlagged so I settled for a very simple, but yet very comforting creme caramel for dessert.
I can’t tell you where the recipe came from as it is the one I used everyday at the restaurant for years and found it in the giant recipe box the various chefs on duty had created decades ago. What I like about it is the way it lends itself to many variations. Extracts, liquors, syrups, fruit purees, nuts and such can be added to the custard base and one can really let his/her imagination run wild.
Creme Caramel, source unknown:
For the custard base:
2 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
For the caramel:
1 cup sugar
1 Tb lemon juice
Prepare the base a couple of hours ahead:
Heat the milk until very hot. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until pale and well blended. Slowly pour the milk over the eggs/sugar mixture and whisk until well incorporated.
Let cool to room temperature and pass through a sieve or colander.
Prepare the caramel:
In a heavy saucepan, melt the sugar with the lemon juice until you reach a nice deep golden color. Be careful as the caramel will continue to darken once removed from the heat and you ccan end up with a very bitter and very dark caramel.
Carefully divide it among 4 ramequins. Let the caramel cool and harden for a few minutes.
In the meantime, prepare your water bath: in a deep baking pan, pour some hot water to about an inch deep and set your oven to 350 degrees.
Pour the egg custard mixture on top of the caramel and set your ramequins into the baking pan. Add more water if necessary, the water bath should come to about half way up the sides of the dishes.
Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until the middle still giggles a bit when shaken as the mixture will ontinue to cook and set when refrigerate.
Let the water bath cool off for a few minutes and remove the ramequins. Let them cool off to room temperature. Refrigerate a couple of hours before serving.
To serve, run a knife along the side of the ramequins, invert them on the plates and giggles them a bit to help the custard fall down.
Decorate to your own taste and enjoy!
This is one of my to go desserts, complementing a heavy dinner but a light note, crisp in flavor yet so simple. Just like with creme brulee or cheesecakes, the flavors can be changed at will. I like infusing the milk with bergamot or Earl Grey tea leaves, lavender buds, citrus and fruit peels during the summer. Pumpkin is great added to the base during fall, and I sometimes replace the whole milk with soy or coconut milks for a different flavor during the winter.