Crème caramel … now there is a dessert many love and hold dear. I never had creme caramel at home tho. We always had it in restaurants, I suppose coz no one knew how to make it in my house. Mum made a different kind of caramel ~ a very dense one requiring 6 eggs, sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk ~ which is a recipe that came from my Granny.
Essentially crème caramel is a custard based dessert (ooo … I love custard!), baked in a bain marie and then flipped out into a plate to allow the caramel to pour out and coat the set custard. Sounds like crème brûlée but this one does not have a torched sugar layer on the top. Crème caramel is light and delicate in all its wobbly goodness. I attempted crème caramel once about 2 yrs back. I had by then quit my job and I was a full-time live at home girlfriend, fresh off the plane from Melbourne, Australia to Amsterdam. I had dreams of finally being able to concentrate on building on my baking skills so I got to work on it instantly. As usual, it was about 10 at night and I had run out of eggs. All the nearby shops had closed for business and so R made a call to his boss and said there was a baking emergency ~ we need eggs. Fortunately she lived like right round the corner from us.
Twenty minutes later I was back in my kitchen with the carton of eggs donated by R’s boss (bless her dear heart) … and I got down to it. Needless to say it was not a very successful outcome. First of all the apartment we were renting had no oven, but a moven (microwave oven). Secondly, they came out tasting of eggs …. NASTY!! They tasted nothing like a creamy custardy dessert should. They looked alright but tastes shite. To top it all off the texture was not very nice either. Cooking in a microwave does not allow you to control your heat very well, and I believe the heat was too strong, it boiled my custard and created bubbles and pockets of air. I don’t want bubbly custard!
So that was that. I was done with trying to bake in that apartment altogether. One year later and now that we have our own place and a fully working oven, I decided to give it one more go. Again I did my research and read up lots of different recipes online and in books. I finally chose a Classic French Crème Caramel recipe.
Back in Melbourne I lived with a boy for 3 years. His name is Julius Chan, but many call him J.C for short. I have known him practically all my life coz we grew up together on the east coast island of Borneo. He lived on the “mainland” … or should I say main island, in the city of Kota Kinabalu, while I grew up on an even tinier island off its coast. If you looked on a map you wouldn’t even see the island of Labuan … it is smaller than Singapore!
There was no McDonald’s or KFC on my little island until about 1993 – 94. The day the first KFC opened the queue lead right round the block. Before that all mass produced, highly unhealthy fastfoods had to be bought in Kota Kinabalu city … about a 45 min flight from Labuan. It was hilarious!! Everytime we flew in to the main city all we ever wanted to eat was KFC. We even had take away and took it home with us back to Labuan where it would be savoured and eaten slowly as we never knew when we would be heading back to K.K again. There was always a fight between my sister and I over who got the biggest piece of fried skin … the best bit the Colonel had to offer. Lol. I only wish I have pictures of this moment today.
So anyway, I lived with J.C and he would always pester me to make him things from when we were kids. Fruit & jelly trifle, creme caramel, nasi lemak … etc. But my baking skills were highly limited back then so I tended to avoid indulging his whims and fancies. I managed to make a fruit and jelly trifle once but it was for a dinner party at a friend’s place, but I promised J.C that I would bring home a portion especially for him. I got t0 the front door and I was fiddling with keys in one hand and the other held the trifle bowl (in a carrier bag). It was a tricky balancing act. I just about put my keys in the lock when the flyscreen came swining back at me and all I heard was the trifle bowl shatter in the bag. J.C came trotting out to greet me and he heard the bowl shatter too. We kinda just stood there in the doorway in silence for a couple of minutes, just starring at each other … unsure of what to do next. Neither of us wanted to look inside the bag. Eventually we did peek in and were both miserable about it; me for losing a wonderful trifle bowl, and he for losing out on the trifle I promised, now all covered in shattered glass. And I never made fruit and jelly trifle again after that until I left Australia. My ultimate excuse was that I had no bowl.
I never made him crème caramel either. I did make him my Grandmother’s version but Jules hated it. He’s like …”That ain’t no Crème caramel, man! That’s some weird fudgey, milky thing!”
So for what it’s worth … here is the recipe I used for this classic French custard recipe. I made my caramel from scratch, but you can use bottled caramel as well if you want. However, making it yourself is much better and probably cheaper too.
165 g caster sugar
60 mls water
1. Bring to boil in a heavy non-stick pot. Dissolve all sugar granules first, and then bump up the heat to achieve a rolling boil. Always observe safety first when working with boiling sugar … it is SUPER HOT! Do not leave the sugar on the stove unattended.
2. Watch closely when the sugar starts to change colour, it will get brown very quickly from here on, and if you are not careful it will burn. I take the pot off the stove when the sugar is about a shade or two lighter than what I am aiming to achieve because even off the stove the sugar is still cooking and will get darker.
3. Pour this sugar into the bottom of ramekin dishes or a loaf tin. Set aside and get on with the custard.
1 tsp vanilla essence
6 eggs, at room temperature
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
150g caster sugar
**Preheat oven to 200ºC.
1. Heat milk and vanilla in a pot but do not boil it. Pour hot milk over the eggs and sugar. Stir all ingredients into a large bowl, being sure not to stir in air or you will get nasty air pocket in the finished product.
2. Pour custard over the now cooled caramel in the ramekin dishes / loaf tin. Tap on counter surface to remove air bubbles.
3. Cover the top with heavy duty tin foil.
4. Lay a tea towel in a deep baking dish or roasting pan. Place the ramekins / loaf pan on top of the towel and fill up the pan with HOT WATER to about half way up the sides of the ramekins / loaf pan. Place in hot oven and turn down the heat for the duration of the cooking time.
5. Bake at 160ºC for 1 hour. Once done chill it completely for about 1 hour. Then put the cool custard into the fridge for a further 6 hrs to chill completely before turning out onto a plate.
6. It should be relatively easy to unmould the dessert ~ just run a blunt knife round the sides to losen it from its mould, then dip the bottom in a pan of hot water for a few seconds. Place a plate on the top of the mould and flip everything over (watch out for splashing liquid caramel). Voila!!
~ ENJOY!! ~