This is a classic but one that people tell me they cannot get right and indeed I had many unsatisfactory results myself to begin with. This is a great dessert for entertaining as it has to be made at least 24 hours before it is served. These cremes will in fact keep well in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Oven temperature 130 degrees Celsius (fan)
For the caramel
Put the water and sugar in a pan and allow the sugar to dissolve on a low heat. Don’t be tempted to mess with it. Do not stir or introduce any forks, spoons etc as any grease will cause the sugar to crystallise. I tend to swirl the pan from side to side gently to help the sugar to dissolve.
Once all is dissolved and you have a clear liquid then you can increase the heat and allow the sugar to boil. Once all the water has evaporated the sugar will start to colour. When the sugar has the colour of dark straw, take it off the heat, swirl around in the pan and allow it to darken to the colour of golden syrup. Pour into the bottom of each ramekin dish – just enough to cover the base. Set aside.
Too dark and the caramel will be bitter – too pale and it will be tasteless.
For the custard
Place the eggs, egg yolks and sugar into a roomy mixing bowl and whisk together. Split the vanilla pod In half lengthways, scrape out the seeds and place them into the milk or alternatively add the extract to the milk. Bring the milk to simmering point then remove from the heat and pour over the egg and sugar mix in a thin steady stream, whisking all the time.
Using a sieve, transfer the mix to a large jug to make it easier to pour. Straining the mixture will remove any eggy lumps and air bubbles.
Divide the custard mix between the ramekins then place them on a piece of kitchen paper in the bottom of a roasting tin. The kitchen paper in the base of the tin prevents the ramekins moving around.
Pour just boiled water into the tin, surrounding the ramekins to about an inch deep.
Cook at 130 degrees for 30 minutes.
The custards should still have a tremble when you take them from the oven. Remove from the baking tin and water onto a cooling tray.
Allow to cool at room temperature. When cold, cover and transfer them to the fridge for 24 hours.
When ready to serve – slide a knife around the top of the custard then invert into a dish. The caramel sauce will surround your lovely crème.
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