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Apr 2010 18

I love light, custardy desserts. I love caramel-y desserts. I also love individually plated, pretty “presentation” desserts. Ergo, I love creme caramel – a light, smooth, egg-rich custard bathed in a pool of bittersweet caramel – and it tastes amazing even when “pareved”!

This dessert can be made a day or two in advance and stored in the fridge. I made them in those little disposable aluminum tart shells, but you could just as easily use proper ramekins. I had initially tried this with saffron, but found that the dominant flavour of the caramel cancelled out any saffron taste – a waste if you ask me, considering the fact that saffron is the most expensive spice ever!

Creme caramel ranks about a medium in terms of the level of skill required. The custard part is easy, but making caramel can be tricky. A word of caution. Do not attempt to make the caramel when there are distractions around – curious kids, other things on the stove, etc. ESPECIALLY do not make the caramel with children around! Hot sugar is a gajillion times hotter than boiling water and any contact with skin can leave you scarred for life. (Have I freaked you out yet?)

Don’t be scared, just be organized about it. Clear off your countertops, get your little ramekins lined up. Then, when you are ready to tackle the caramel, put the dog in the basement and stick the kid(s) in the playpen or somewhere else where they can’t escape for 20 minutes. Turn your phones off, pull on some long rubber gloves and make sure your arms aren’t exposed. And NEVER add ANYTHING to the sugar once it has turned into liquid caramel, or it will explode in a very bad way! Hot sugar is scary stuff, you guys! (But when it’s done safely, oh, is it ever worth it!)

While the caramel is cooling, you can get on with the custard (but don’t let the kids roam free again until the caramel is cool).

You will need:

12 ramekins or mini pie shells

1 1/2 c sugar for the caramel

8 eggs
1 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 c soy milk (vanilla favoured is fine)
3/4 c coconut milk
1/4 c water
1/4 tsp ground cardamom – or 8 whole cardamom pods

To make the caramel, put the sugar into a medium stainless steel pot (preferably one with a long handle) over high heat. Using a long wooden spoon, stir the sugar continuously. After a few minutes, the sugar will start to clump together – that’s how you’ll know it’s working. Keep on stirring, and eventually the sugar will begin to liquify. When the sugar is all liquid, and starts to give off some colour, turn the heat down to meduim and keep stirring until the sugar is a rich golden/light amber colour. Then take the sugar off the heat and pour a little bit – quickly and carefully! – into the bottom of each ramekin, enough to coat the bottoms with caramel.

Then put the pot down, either on the floor or somewhere it won’t be touched or knocked over. After about 15 minutes it will have cooled and you can fill the pot halfway with water and set it on simmer – all of the hard candy will easily dissolve and cleanup will be a cinch!

Hooray, you’ve just made caramel! Give yourself a pat on the back – that was no easy feat! Now you can relax, and leave it all to cool while you get started on the custard.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla. In a pot, whisk together the soy milk, coconut milk, water and cardamom (if you’re using whole pods, bruise them by crushing them a little with the back of a spoon), and place on meduim heat to heat up gently. Keep an eye on it, as soy milk tends to curdle with too much heat.

When the milk begins to steam, remove it from the heat and whisk it into the egg mixture. Then strain this mixture into a large measuring cup, pitcher or bowl. This will ensure that your custard has an even texture and a smooth mouthfeel.

Preheat the oven to 320F. Pour the custard into the ramekins (you can fill them almost to the rim if you have enough).

Prepare a water bath by arranging the ramekins in a large baking/roasting pan (you may need to bake them in batches if your baking pan is not big enough to hold all of them). Then carefully pour water into the pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 25-35 minutes. The custard will still be slightly jiggly when done, but it shouldn’t look liquidy. Allow the custards to cool and chill them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve them.

To serve, loosen the custards by running a knife along the edges. Place a dessert plate upside-down over a ramekin and invert it, then give the ramekin a little jiggle on the plate to release the custard. All you need as garnish is a fresh berry or two – or just serve, as you may prefer, au naturel.

Makes 12.

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2 comments

  1. Evan Heltay says:

    I sampled the Cardamom Creme Caramel twice last week – outstanding!

  2. Daniel says:

    great post, thanks for sharing

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