This is my test Creme Caramel, I’ll be making another for an upcoming Cookbook Club. You wish you were here for lunch today.
From Falling Cloudberries, slight change and notes by Megan Reardon (www.notmartha.org).
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 cups milk (I went ahead and used whole milk)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- insides from one vanilla bean (this is my addition, you can leave this out)
- 6 eggs
You’ll want enough time to let this cool in the fridge overnight, or at least a few hours.
You’ll also need a roasting pan large enough to hold your cake pan and tall enough to allow for a water bath. I keep a large disposable aluminum roasting pan in my house for this purpose since I have no place to keep a serious roasting pan, the aluminum one can be shoved on it’s side in the back of a lesser used cupboard.
You can also divide this among ramekins for individual desserts, but in this case I think the whole custard is a glorious sight. I would not use jars for this, I think they would crack when you pour in the caramel.
Preheat the oven to 310 degrees.
Make the caramel
Get a large bowl of ice water and set it on the counter. Hot sugar burns, if you get some on your hands plunge them into this water. Put one cup of the sugar into a large (I used a 4-quart) saucepan, add about 1/4 cup water and turn the heat on medium-high. Don’t leave, watch this pot. Mix just so that the sugar is dissolved then let it bubble. When it starts to brown swirl the pan to distribute the heat. It will brown very quickly at this point, once it’s a a nice golden brown pour it directly into an angel food cake pan. Swirl the pan, you might need potholders as my cake pan heated up quickly from the sugar, so that the caramel coats the bottom and a little way up the sides.
At this point my caramel cooled, and actually turned hard, then cracked! I was certain I’d heated it too long and I would end up with a custard topped by hard candy, but when the whole thing was turned out I did indeed have a lovely caramel sauce. So, don’t worry if you have ended up making hard candy, apparently it softens.
Make the custard
Start some water boiling, you’ll want enough to create a water bath (this is one of those moments I love my electric kettle). Mix together the eggs, vanilla extract and the remaining one cup of sugar in a large bowl. Heat the milk and the vanilla bean insides in a saucepan until it almost boils, then take it off the heat. Add a ladle of the hot milk to the sugar and egg mixture and stir it in to temper the eggs and make sure they don’t cook. Add a few more ladlefuls, whisking lightly between each addition, and slowly add the rest of the milk. You don’t want the mixture to get frothy though. Strain the custard into a pitcher or large pour-able bowl. I used a regular gauge strainer and it caught some blobs of egg yolk, I think that’s all you want to catch. Pour this mixture into your cake pan.
Place your roasting pan (or whatever you’re using for your water bath) in the center of the oven, put down the cake pan, then pour just boiled water into the roasting pan, enough so that it is half way up the side of the cake pan. I’ve also seen Martha Stewart also place a folded kitchen towel beneath the cake pan to keep it from sliding around in the water bath.
Bake for 50 or 60 minutes. Falling Cloudberries says “until the top is golden in parts, quite set but still a little wobbly”. Mine didn’t turn golden in spots, it was an even color, but it was both set and wobbly and turned out great. Cover with plastic and put it in the fridge, preferably overnight but at least a few hours.
Loosen the edges, either with a knife (I have a nylon spreader I use for this) or by tugging the top with your fingers or a spoon. Turn it onto a large serving dish that will contain the caramel sauce, and there will be lots of it. In my experience, as shown above, you’ll need something larger than a dinner plate. Your best bet here is to put the plate on top of the cake pan, get a firm hold and flip them both at the same time. Spoon the caramel over the slices you’ll serve. Mmm.
See also/instead: Julia Child’s recipe for Creme Caramel at Whisk.