Creme Caramel

This light and delicate dessert is a baked custard. It is a delicious pudding, taking very little of your time, to make when there are spare yolks left over from making mousse or meringues. It may be more economical on other occasions to make it with two whole eggs plus two yolks. The custard will then be firmer and stand up better.

This pudding makes an ideal end to a dinner party meal. It is also much easier to turn out if made 24 hours in advance. Although it can be made in one large mold, you will probably find it easier to turn out of individual dishes such as cocottes or dariole molds. With small molds there is no danger of the custard collapsing.

The eggs and milk should be incorporated as smoothly and carefully as possible, vigorous beating produces bubbles which would be baked into the custard. When making the caramel, remove the pan from the heat just before it reaches the right color. Because of the high temperature the sugar goes on cooking away from the heat. Coat the molds as quickly as possible, twisting each one so that the bottom and a little of the sides are evenly covered.

* 400 ml of milk
* a vanilla pod or 2-3 drops of vanilla extract
* 2 yolks and 2 medium-sized eggs
* 25 grams of caster sugar
* For the caramel: 100 grams of granulated or caster sugar

1. Heat the oven to 160°C. Place sugar for the caramel in a small heavy-based pan. Add 1 tablespoon cold water.

2. Place the pan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts.

3. Increase the heat to medium and cook the sugar, without stirring, until it turns a rich caramel color, for about 2 minutes. The moment the sugar turns darker, remove the pan from the heat.

4. Holding the mold with a thick cloth, pour the hot caramel into it quickly. Twist the mold round to coat the bottom and sides well with the caramel. Set aside.

5. If you are using individual molds, coat each in turn with the caramel. Set aside.

6. Pour the milk into a heavy-based saucepan and add the vanilla pod.

7. Place the saucepan over low heat until the edge is covered with bubbles. Remove from heat. Cover and set aside.

8. Separate two eggs. Place the yolks in a heatproof bowl, reserving the whites. Break in the remaining eggs and add the sugar.

9. Beat the eggs and sugar together with a balloon or sauce whisk to thoroughly incorporate the whites.

10. Remove vanilla pod from the milk, wipe dry and store for use again.

11. Pour the hot milk in a thin stream on to the egg mixture, stirring carefully without beating.

12. Flavor with vanilla extract if necessary.

13. Pour the egg mixture into the prepared mold or molds. Cover with aluminum foil.

14. Stand mold or molds in a baking tin and pour in sufficient hot water to come half way up the sides of the mold.

15. Place the baking tin in the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until set in the center.

16. Test with the point of a sharp knife. If ready, the knife will make a distinct mark but if the custard is not set, it will flow together again.

17. Remove the foil from the mold or molds and take these from the baking tin. Allow to cool thoroughly. When cold cover with foil and put in the refrigerator for several hours.

18. To turn out the creme caramel, place a suitable-sized plate upside down on top of the custard mold. Invert them carefully, holding them together. Put down the plate and lift off the mold. The pudding has a dark top, while the caramel sauce is liquid and will run round the creme.

Other Flavorings

The basic custard for a creme caramel can be flavored in the following ways as a change from vanilla.

* For a chocolate caramel, add 75 grams of plain dessert chocolate broken into the cold milk. Stir to dissolve.

* For a coffee caramel, add 3 tablespoons of instant coffee powder to the hot milk.

* For a Viennese caramel do not pour the made caramel into the mold but add it directly to the hot milk before using this to make the custard.

* Viennese caramel can be cooked in a ring mold. Turn out on to a serving dish, fill the center with fresh fruit, such as strawberries, raspberries or peaches, or decorate with swirls of whipped cream.

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