Crème Caramel is one of those old French bistro classics that never loses it’s appeal. It’s easy to make and similar to crème brûlée in that it’s a custard with a caramel topping but instead of a brittle toffee coating, as in a brûlée, it has a liquid caramel sauce. The custard is lusciously thick and smooth and yet it’s a surprisingly light dessert that’s easy to eat even after a large meal. The only stipulation with this dessert is that it needs to be made a day ahead so the caramel in the bottom of the pan has time to liquefy before it’s inverted. You can make individual crème caramels using ramekins but I was making this for a family dinner for nine so one large crème caramel cut into slices was easier.
Ingredients Adapted from Australian Womens Weekly
3/4 cup (165g) caster sugar
1/2 cup (125ml) water
1 vanilla bean, split in two and seeds removed – you can substitute 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup (75g) caster sugar, extra
1 3/4 cups (430ml) milk
Preheat the oven to 160C (140C fan-forced). Spread the sugar evenly over the base of a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and add the water. Don’t stir the sugar and water but just swirl the pan until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil uncovered, without stirring, until mixture is a deep caramel colour – be patient as it can take up to 5-7 minutes for this to happen as there’s a high ratio of water to sugar but don’t walk away from the pan as it can turn from deep caramel to burnt very quickly. Remove from heat and pour toffee into an oven proof 20-23cm dish. You can use a soufflé dish, a cake tin (not springform), a pyrex pie dish or small ramekins if serving individual portions – basically any dish that is round and at least 10cm deep; I use my Le Crueset tart tatin dish. Whisk eggs, vanilla seeds and extra sugar in large bowl. Combine cream and milk in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Whisking constantly, pour hot milk mixture into egg mixture. Strain mixture through a sieve into the pan with the caramel. Place the pan in a baking dish and add enough boiling water to come half way up the side of the pan. Bake for about 40 minutes or until set. Remove pan from the baking dish and cool.
Cover and refrigerate overnight. Using a small knife gently run it along the sides of the pan. Place a serving plate on top of créme caramel, then quickly invert. There will be quite a lot of liquid caramel sauce so use a serving plate that has a little bit of depth to catch it all. The créme caramel can be inverted and placed in the fridge until ready to serve.