Monday, 28 May 2012

Crème caramel / Crème renversée

I like custards, especially when they're baked well. The silky smooth, melts in your mouth texture coupled with the fact that it is served chilled make creme caramel the perfect dessert for a hot summer day like this. Creme renversee is how the Parisians would call this dessert although strange enough it's more commonly known as creme caramel elsewhere in the world. It belongs to the same family of baked custard as Creme Brulee and Pot-de-Creme but is the lightest of all. The recipes for creme caramel differ greatly as the amount of eggs(whites and yolks) can be easily adjusted to suit different taste buds. The more yolks you use the silkier and more delicate the texture will be, although it also makes the pudding set less well. I have been experimenting with different recipes a few times before my exams started and thought I'd give it another go now that exams are (unofficially) over. Raymond Blanc's recipe calls for whole eggs with extra yolks but I find the texture less silky and delicate compared to the yolks only recipe. That said, however, the yolk-only recipe that I used produced very unstable pudding and easily fell apart on turning out from the ramekins. And so I experimented with additional yolks until I got the result I wanted, like this:

One of the best things about this pudding is that you can always use the top as a mirror in case you ran out of one.

Presentation wise, the ideal creme caramel should be completely free of air bubbles or holes on the outside without any cracks. This is more achievable with Raymond Blanc's recipe that uses egg whites on top of yolks but with my recipe it's a fine balance. I was still fairly happy with the way it looked, no large air bubbles and the inside was silky smooth and meltingly soft.

Did I say I just had a dessert for breakfast?

The recipe:

Butter your ramekins. 

For the caramel:

40g of caster sugar
20ml/20g of water

Pour water into a saucepan followed by the caster sugar. Over medium heat, cook the syrup until it turns amber. Pour the caramel into the ramekins and quickly turn the ramekins around to distribute the caramel evenly, coating the entire area at the bottom of the ramekins. You may wish to take the caramel off the heat just a few seconds before it has reached your desired colour as the hot saucepan will continue to cook the caramel even after you've taken it off the stove.

Preheat oven to 160C. DO NOT go above this temperature while baking, the minute your custard starts to boil scrambled eggs form. Personal experience here.

Put the kettle on.

For the custard filling:

250ml of whole milk
60g of egg yolks, or yolks from three large eggs
30g of caster sugar
1 tbsp of vanilla essence, reduce if you prefer a milder flavour

1. Whisk the yolks with sugar by scraping the whisk against the bottom of the bowl, incorporating as little air as possible. Add the vanilla essence.
2. Warm up the milk in a saucepan up to a scald and slowly pour it into the yolk mixture while whisking at the same time.
3. Sieve the mixture to get rid of any lumps. If you're a seasoned custard maker you may skip this step.
4. Skim any froth that has emerged during the previous steps.This is important to avoid getting the ugly bubbles and holes when you present your pudding.
5. Using a ladle divide the custard mixture evenly between two ramekins (or more depending on the size). Be gentle, as you don't want bubbles.
6. Place the ramekins in a deep baking tray with a tea towel lining the bottom. Cover the ramekins tightly with foil.
7. Pour boiling water into the baking tray and bake for 40minutes (for two ramekins). The cooking time varies, just like the size of ramekins that are sold out there.

The best solution is to learn to judge if your pudding is cooked. If you're using four ramekins I'd say start checking from 30 minutes onwards. Take off the foil, using a pair of tongs, give the ramekins a jiggle, the custard should wobble in unison, if creases form in the middle, it's not cooked yet. Also, use a spoon and press gently on the surface in the middle of the ramekin, a cooked creme caramel should not dip and your spoon should have no stains of custard.

Once cooked, cool the creme caramel in a cold water bath for an hour before covering them in cling film and refrigerate for 4 hours at least, or overnight if you're making it a day in advance. Before serving, run a thin knife along the borders and invert the pudding onto a plate. Give it a few thrusts vertically with the plate tightly covering the opening of the ramekins, you know it when it's out.

This dessert is simple yet exudes elegance. Have a go and let me know how it turns out!

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Comments and feedback are what keep me going! I'd always be happy to help you with questions you have regarding the recipes in my entries.