(serves 8 -10)
Caramel custard is a perrenial english favourite at the dining table, undeservedly supplanted by its french cousin creme brulee in recent years. The creamy custard soaked in a bath of caramel is a delectable combination. And the beauty of it… because sugar is melted twice, the resulting caramel syrup maintains its consistency at all temperatures, so you can serve caramel custard either hot or chilled.
- Eggs (6)
- Milk (900 ml)
- Sugar (1 cup)
- Vanilla essence (2t)
- You can make caramel custard in individual portions or in one large pyrex / corningware container but the first step is always to assemble ovenware of the right volume (for the purposes of this recipe, I’ll be assuming you are using individual ramekins). As the caramel sets very quickly, there will be no time to deal with this math along the way. As a guide, your ovenware should be able to hold 1 litre of water.
- Put one cup of plain sugar in a pan and under slow heat, stir until the sugar caramelizes. At first, the sugar will yellow a bit and start clumping together, and after about fifteen minutes, you’ll get a deep golden brown molasses. I wouldn’t use a non-stick pan as the sugar gets really hot.
- At the point where most of the sugar has turned into molasses (the remainder will caramelize by itself), drizzle it with a large spoon to layer the bottom of your ramekins. You have to work fast as a bitter taste will set in if you continue to heat the molasses too long but if you turn off the fire, the molasses will quickly thicken to the point where you won’t be able to work it. The molasses will harden immediately as it touches your cold bakeware so don’t harbour any thoughts about adjusting it later. Control the distribution as the caramel leaves the spoon.
- There will be some caramel left in the pan at the end and you might wonder how you are going to clean it. Don’t worry, its basically still sugar and melts in plain water after cooling.
- Allow the caramel to cool in the ramekins and preheat your oven to 150oC (300oF).
- Now for the custard, this is comparatively easy. Heat 900ml of milk in the microwave or in a saucepan. In a mixing bowl, beat 4 whole eggs, 2 egg yolks with 3T of sugar and then stir in the milk slowly. Add 2t of vanilla essence. Put the whole mixture through a strainer to remove the strands of albumin from the egg white.
- Break off and dispose of any of the hardened caramel on the sides of the ramekins and pour in your custard. Skim off any bubbles.
- Bake for 22 minutes or until the custard has just a slight tinge of brown, and then leave in the oven with the heat off for a further 15 minutes (without opening the oven door).
- Serve your caramel custard anytime thereafter.
- If you want to go the extra mile, bake your ramekins in a baking tray of water and leave the heat on for the last fifteen minutes where its supposed to be off according to the recipe. This is more troublesome but it’s the classic way of doing it and it will get you the perfect ‘pudding’ look that you see in some cookbooks. I find the ‘baked’ look from direct baking gives your custard more character, so its the way I do it.
- My experience is hot milk serves little purpose unless you are making a liquid custard but I heat the milk anyway as cold milk would affect the cooking time.
- I will usually make my caramel custard ahead of time and serve it chilled. This also makes for a more condensed texture and gives the syrup time to work its way into the custard.
- You may also serve your caramel custard immediately as a hot dessert, although this is less common. It will have a lighter texture this way, if that’s what you are aiming for.
- You also the option of serving the custard inverted on a plate, or in the bakeware itself, as pictured here.