Crème-y Goodness: Crème Caramel

Crème caramel is a great dessert for entertaining. It can be made ahead of time so you can effortlessly serve it to your guests in all its golden, syrupy glory whenever you need it. This classic dessert is not cloyingly sweet and the smokiness of the caramel gives some edge to the delicate vanilla scent. 
Since this particular recipe uses milk in the custard, it is on the leaner side. If you would like it to be extra velvety and rich, look for a version that uses cream and/or more egg yolks. 

Notes and recipe after the jump...

Wash down the side of the pot with a wet brush while the caramel is cooking. This prevents the sugar from crystallizing. Swirl the pot but don't stir it.

While recipes usually are written for several small ones (like the one pictured above), I have made larger 9-inch ones in the past (for buffet style presentations). The cooking time will be longer, but otherwise the method is the same. Just scale the proportions to whatever size your mold is. 

The custard will not look fully cooked when you take it out of the oven (there will be a slightly wobbly region in the middle) but it's necessary to prevent it from overcooking. It will set fully after it has cooled. 

Crème Caramel

Yields 4

5 Tbs. water

1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 3 Tbs. of the water and 1/2 cup of the sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil and cook, covered, for 3 minutes. Remove the lid and continue cooking, brushing the inside of the pan with a dampened pastry brush, until the mixture is light amber in color, 3 to 5 minutes more. Keep a close eye on the sugar so it doesnt burn. Add the remaining 2 Tbs. water and stir until smooth. Divide the caramel among four 6-fl.-oz. ramekins and let cool to room temperature.

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Have a pot of boiling water ready.

In a bowl, beat the eggs and egg yolks until just blended. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the milk until steam begins to rise. Add the milk a little at a time to the eggs, whisking constantly until blended. Add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and whisk until dissolved. Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve set over a clean bowl or large measuring cup and stir in the vanilla.

Divide the custard among the prepared ramekins. Set the ramekins in a roasting pan or baking dish 2 to 3 inches deep and add boiling water to fill the pan halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil and bake until the custards are set, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the ramekins to a wire rackand let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Just before serving, run the tip of a paring knife around the inside edge of the ramekins to loosen the custard. Invert an individual dessert plate over each ramekin, hold the plate and ramekin together and invert again. Lift off the ramekin, shaking it gently, and let the caramel fall out onto the plate and the juices run down and around the custard. Serve immediately.

Recipe source: Williams-Sonoma
Image property of beetsandbites

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