I’ve been trying to get back into making puddings recently, as more and more I’ve started to find myself spending ages concentrating on a nice savoury dish and totally overlooking anything to eat afterwards. I have to admit that I haven’t got much of a sweet tooth, and would always choose a starter and main or a cheese option to follow, but I do sometimes find myself craving a dessert. So instead of relying on that bar of chocolate lurking in the cupboard I thought it was about time I tried to make something for myself.
I hadn’t thought about making creme caramels until very recently. They seem to get totally overshadowed by the more glamorous and popular creme brulees, but there’s something about the soft silkiness of the caramel that is just to die for. I had always thought that they were quite difficult to make, but after doing some research and practicing I was amazed at how easy they are. I’ve since made them for dinner parties, where you can make them quickly and have them sitting in the fridge until needed. Their clean flavour and light texture make them a great end to a meal.
As with any baking, it’s important to stick to measurements and practice really makes perfect. The most important things with this recipe is not to overcook the caramel and the custard. When cooking the caramel, you need to find the perfect balance between being golden enough to maximise flavour but not dark enough to burn and be bitter. You need to watch over it all the time so you can catch it at just the right moment. With the custard, the key is to cook it gently so that it doesn’t scramble and ruin the texture.
For this post I’ve used the brilliant Dan Lepard’s recipe for inspiration and guideline amounts. Every baking enthusiast should grab a copy of Short and Sweet; it really is a bible. I’ve put a twist on his recipe by making a salted caramel and using buttermilk to make the custard slightly sourer with a lighter taste. The joy of these recipes is once you have the basic technique nailed you can experiment to create your own version.
Makes 6-8 using mini loaf tins
For the caramel:
A good pinch of salt
For the custard:
100g caster sugar
6 medium eggs
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
300ml whole milk
50ml double cream
To make the caramel, pour caster sugar into each loaf tin until just under a centimetre deep then pour it all into a small saucepan. Add a small amount of water and put on a medium heat. Cook until the caramel is bubbling away and starting to turn a deep red/brown colour, then sprinkle with the salt. Do not stir with a spoon at any point as the caramel may crystalise, just gently swirl the pan. As soon as the caramel is the right colour pour equally into each tin and tip around to make sure that the bottoms are covered. Set aside while you make the custard.
Pre-heat the oven to 140ºC (fan).
Make the custard by mixing the eggs, vanilla seeds and sugar in a large bowl until combined but not frothy. Beat in the milk, buttermilk and double cream then tip into a medium saucepan. Cook on a low-medium heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture is only just hot to the touch. Carefully pour the custard into the caramel lined tins, leaving a lip of about a centimetre. Place the tins into a deep oven dish and create a bain marie by pouring boiling water around the outside.
Cook for 18 minutes before checking, they should only have a tiny wobble in the middle. If they are too wobbly pop them back in for another minute or two. Once cooked, allow to cool then refrigerate for at least four hours.
To serve, carefully cut around the edge of the tins with a sharp knife and tip quickly onto a plate. A blowtorch can be handy to quickly flash around the outside if they don’t come out straight away.