Cream caramel, or creme caramel is a beautifully simple dessert that just requires a little bit of time, and a little bit of inside knowledge 😉
This dessert starts with a layer of toffee/caramel in the bottom of a heatproof mould. A simple egg custard – flavoured as you like it, is poured over the top of the toffee. The whole thing is cooked in a water bath, or bain marie, the French term for this method of cooking.
When the custard has cooked gently in the oven to wobbly deliciousness, you chill it overnight: or a least 6 hours, if you can’t wait…
When you unmould your lovely dessert onto the serving platter, out she gently plops, with a suntanned top and sitting in a glorious puddle of liquid caramel.
I have made several versions/flavours of this classic dessert, all lovely in their own way. Orange flavoured custard is just sublime, as is coconut milk. I have made a version with evaporated milk, and a version with condensed milk – and a version that used both! All were lovely. The condensed milk+evaporated milk version is popular in the Philippines, where cream caramel goes by the name of Leche.
The Thais like to make a version (without the caramel) that contains pumpkin puree, and is often baked/steamed in a scooped out pumpkin. A bit like the pumpkin pie filling our friends from the USA enjoy. The Thai version is also lactose free as it contains only coconut milk, no dairy milk or cream.
This is my recipe for cream caramel
Pre-heat the oven to 350F
You will need:
2 cups of white sugar
3/4 of a cup of cold water
6 fresh as you can get them eggs
1 and a half cups of cream
1 and a half cups of milk
1/2 a cup of white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or a vanilla pod or 2 teaspoons of extract
THIS IS WHAT YOU DO
Get out a mould for the dessert. Today I used a loaf pan. The other night my mum served one that had been made in a lovely oval shaped, fluted cake tin. You can use a souffle dish, a cake tin, anything deep enough and heatproof really. You can also use ramekins and make individual cream caramels.
Get out a heavy base saucepan. Tip in the 2 cups of sugar and the cold water. Set the pan on a low heat and just stand there and gently stir it to dissolve the sugar. The sugar needs to dissolve into the water before it comes to the boil. Don’t stir too roughly either- sugar that goes up the walls of the pan will crystallise and not melt.
When you are sure the sugar has dissolved ( your spoon will “feel” any gritty bits of sugar) then you can turn up the heat.
DO NOT STIR FROM THIS POINT ON!
It would make the sugar turn back into gritty crystals.
Here’s where you need to have your wits about you… one minute your in a world of your own, just staring at the white sugar and water bubbling away – the next instant it seems, it has turned into golden toffee that threatens to turn into burnt toffee if you don’t get it off the heat immediately!
Don’t be scared – just watch carefully. The colour changes – see? The smell changes. I will let you know that it’s best to take it off the heat just before you think it’s ready. The toffee just keeps cooking and getting darker right up until the point it hits the cold cake tin!
If you muck up, don’t worry. Boil the jug, soak the pan, and start again. You’ll know what to look out for next time.
You can use a sugar thermometer like this one:
It takes some of the guess work out of it, but you still need to be confident and fast when it’s ready.
Whip it off the stove – be careful, it’s like molten lava! and tip it into your mould. Swirl it up the sides a bit and set the mould aside.
See how the toffee has cooked and darkened more in the short time btween taking it off the heat and getting it into the pan?
Making the custard is a walk in the park after the toffee 😉
Combine your milk and cream in a jug and heat it in the microwave. Just until it’s hot enough to dissolve the sugar in the bowl. You can do it on the stove, in a pan if you prefer ( I hate washing milk pans )
Whisk everything up in a bowl…
That’s it. You can use a blender or food processor if you want.
Some recipes do call for the milk to be slowly heated before it’s added to the eggs and sugar, and I would most definitely suggest this if you were wanting to infuse the milk with flavour. For example, if you were using orange rind or a vanilla pod. The you would very slowly heat the milk and cream up with the rind or the pod, and let it sit for a little while to extract all the flavour from your goodies.
I am a lazy girl, yes I know, but one step I never omit is straining the custard before it goes over the toffee. See how much stringy egg white you catch in the strainer?
Anyway, straining from the bowl to the jug helps with the pouring into the mould.
Have a baking dish or a roasting pan ready. It needs to be big enough for your mould, with room to spare. Place a folded tea-towel on the base. It stops the mould slipping about, and protects the base from too fierce a heat.
Meanwhile you are boiling a kettle full of water.
Put your mould with the toffee in it in the baking dish and put it on the oven shelf. Have the shelf sticking out. Tip in the custard over the top of the toffee.
Get the kettle of boiling water and CAREFULLY fill the baking dish until the water reaches half-way up the side of your mould. Be careful not to splash any water into the mould with the cream caramel in it.
Gently slide the oven shelf in and walk away for 1 HOUR.
You can test the custard with a knife if you’re worried. Stick the knife straight down into the centre of the custard. It will be very soft, but it won’t be liquid. If it is, no problem, cook it for another 10-15 minutes and test again.
Look at my photo. I tested it with my finger, you can see the mark. I just gently “pushed” at the surface to see if it was set.
When the custard is cooked, it will still be wobbly. Cool to room temperature, and then cover, and put into the fridge. Overnight is ideal, 6-8 hours is fine. It will firm up.
When it comes time to unmould the dessert, just put the mould in a sink with a couple of inches of hot water in it for 30 seconds. Take it out, run a knife or spatula around the edges, put the platter over the top, turn the whole lot over quickly and , voila! Out she comes!
BTW – the little black seeds in the custard? Vanilla pod seeds…
Now, something that annoys me and puzzles me is all the hard toffee that remains in the bottom of the mould. It is so frustrating! But there is nothing you can do about it. You could crack the toffee out and decorate the dessert with the shards I guess, but I was using one of my non-stick pans and didn’t want to hack at it with a knife. Just one of those things you have to accept I guess…
I served the cream caramel with baked apples stuffed with raisins, walnuts, brown sugar and spice.
Let me know how you get on. I’d love to know if you try it.