Okay, even though my Creme Caramel didn’t turn out looking like Thomas Keller’s photo in his cookbook “Bouchon” I must say that I fell in love with this recipe none the less.
Creme Caramel is a caramel custard that will make even the most ardent dessert atheists stand up and sing praises of its creamy goodness. LOL Guess what? I’m one of those dessert atheists. Yes, I like a cookie every once and a while, but I must admit port poached pears in a zabaglione sauce became the gateway drug to my new found dessert fixation.
I guess I was never a dessert person. I can’t help it. I like a good doughnut every once and a while, ice cream almost never and chocolate has a special hate spot in my heart, except when I’m on steriods during a flare up or pregnant.
I was very nervous making this dessert since cooking at a high altitude is a little different than at sea level.
It took me a few years to understand that just because I moved to New Mexico, doesn’t mean ALL the stoves and ovens don’t work properly. The first time I roasted a chicken here it took almost 3 1/2 hours. Okay, so granted, the stove didn’t close all the way, but STILL! I needed to realize that cooking way up here is different.
Any dessert that is attempted at a higher altitude must take into account the following:
- Rate of evaporation
I can’t tell you how many things I’ve dried out, burnt, dropped, and almost had the fire department banging down my door! No, I’m not exaggerating, it was really that bad…just ask my kids. LOL
The first part of the directions calls for making the caramel. I’ll admit that I’ve burned caramel a few times so I was nervous about getting it right this time. In my zeal and ever present hopeful attitude to get it exactly right, it took over 30 minutes to turn a lump of sugar and water into the light amber goodness in my photo. The amount of time normally is 13 minutes, but I was terrified of ruining it.
Next was worrying about evaporation of the water. When I make this dessert again, I’ll be tripling the ingredients of what the recipe calls for to make caramel. There simply wasn’t enough caramel to coat each ramekin.
The ramekins I have are the normal straight kind. I’ll be ordering the tapered ramekins next time to get that beautiful wide base and more narrow top that just makes the caramel cling inside a mini pool of amber goodness.
I’m typing out all the notes and directions from Thomas Keller because I feel they are as important as the recipe itself. Below is a photo I took of his Creme Caramel from his book Bouchon, and following is the recipe…enjoy!
Creme Caramel- Bouchon/Desserts Page 264
For me, this custard, baked in a cup with cooked sugar in the bottom then inverted so that the syrupy caramel spills over it, is more than simply one of the three benchmark bistro desserts (along with lemon tart and chocolate mousse) :
It’s the pinnacle of bistro desserts.
I began making this dessert at La Rive and Learned my appreciation for it there. While at Bouchon we bake individual portions in ramekins, at La Rive we cooked the custard in a one-and-a-half-quart Pyrex dish, inverted it onto a plate, and sliced it to order.
A superlative creme caramel often indicates an excellent all-around bistro. The ingredients are basic, but the preparation must be exact-letting the base sit a day to allow the flavorings to mature, cooking the caramel to the right temperature, then cooking the custard until it just sets. It should be so delicate that it’s on the verge of falling apart and almost melts in the mouth. Achieving these qualities takes some practice, observation, and care, but when you get it right, there’s nothing better (see page 267).
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup (keeps the sugar from crystallizing)
3 tablespoons water
Arrange eight 7-to8-ounce creme caramel cups or ramekins in a baking pan lined with a piece of parchment paper and set it near the stove.
Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a very clean small nonstick saucepan (the corn syrup will help keep the caramel from crystallizing) and stir to combine.
Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spoon or spatula.
Continue to simmer and stir until the caramel is a rich, deep amber, about 13 minutes.
If any sugar crystallizes on the side of the pan, brush the sugar down with a pastry brush that has been dipped in water.
If the caramel begins to foam or browns too quickly, move it off the heat briefly to let it rest and allow you to regain control.
Remove the caramel from the heat. Pour some of the caramel into the bottoms of two of the cups and immediately rotate them to coat the bottoms evenly with a thin layer of caramel. (If you don’t work fast, the caramel may solidify too quickly.)
Coat the remaining cups two at a time; if the caramel in the saucepan gets too think, place it over low heat to remelt.
The caramel cups can be held at room temperature for 2 days; cover the cups with plastic wrap.
4 cups milk
1 1/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons sugar
5 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
2 1/4 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
Combine the milk and sugar in a medium nonreactive saucepan and bring just barely to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Remove from heat and allow to cool until just warm to the touch.
Whisk the eggs and yolks in a large bowl to combine. Whisking constantly, slowly add the warm cream mixture and then vanilla.
Strain into a pitcher or large measuring cup with a spout and refrigerate for a day-ideally-or proceed with the recipe.
Put the creme caramel cups in the baking pan on a baking sheet. This will provide a double layer of insulation so the custards cook slowly and evenly.
Pour about 3/4 cup of custard into each cup.
Add enough very hot tap water to the backing pan to come halfway to two-thirds of the way up the sides of the cups.
Use a wooden skewer to burst any bubbles on the tops of the custards so the tops will be smooth.
Cover the baking pan with
two layers of plastic wrap (Personal experience from my point of view, use aluminum foil NOT plastic wrap! I followed the directions exactly and the plastic totally melted!…just sayin!) sealing it tightly, and place in the oven.
Begin to check the custards after 30 minutes.
Gently shake them: The custard should be set but still jiggle slightly, like gelatin.
It will probably take 40 minutes for the custards to set, or longer if the mixture was cold when it went into the oven.
Remove the baked custards from the hot water and place them on a cooling rack.
Cool, then refrigerate for at least 24 hours. (The custards can be refrigerated for as long as 3 days.)
Pour about 2 inches of very hot water into a bowl.
Set a creme caramel cup in the hot water to let the caramel soften for a few seconds, then run a paring knife around the edge of the cup to loosen the custard.
Invert onto a serving plate. If the custard sticks, hold the cup firmly against the plate and shake to loosen the custard. Repeat with the remaining custards.
Makes 8 servings