Sunday, April 3, 2011

Crème Caramel

I bought the cookbook of all cookbooks last week. 1,000 pages of pure happiness.
To break it in, I wanted to make the recipe on the cover. Being from out west where there is a heavy Mexican influence, I thought that the picture on the cover was flan. So I searched the index, but it wasn't to be found. My awesome husband suggested that I look at the beginning of the book for a reference, and I quickly found that the cover recipe was crème caramel. Ooh, fancy.

Apparently this is the French version of flan. It was extremely light and delicate. The texture was very smooth, and it honestly melted in my mouth when I took that first bite.

On a side note, whoever figured out that the caramel would liquify like that when custard is baked on top of it is a genius. I mean, when you pour it into the ramekin the caramel turns rock hard. But when you invert the custard onto a plate after baking, the caramel pours out into liquidy (is that a word?) deliciousness. Genius.

Classic Crème Caramel
from the editors of Cook's Illustrated

1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1/4 tsp juice from 1 lemon

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups light cream
3 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup (4 2/3 ounces) sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1. For the caramel: In a medium nonreactive saucepan, bring the sugar, water, corn syrup, and lemon juice to a simmer, without stirring, over medium-high heat, wiping the sides of the pan with a wet cloth to remove any sugar crystals that might cause the syrup to turn grainy. Continue to cook until the syrup turns from clear to golden, swirling the pan gently to ensure even browning, about 8 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling the pan gently and constantly, until large, slow bubbles on the mixture's surface turn honey-caramel in color, 4 to 5 minutes longer. Remove the pan immediately from the heat and, working quickly but carefully (the caramel is above 300 degrees and will burn if it touches your skin), pour a portion of the caramel into each of 8 ungreased 6-ounce ovenproof ramekins. Allow the caramel to cool and harden, about 15 minutes. (The caramel-coated ramekins can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days; return to room temperature before adding the custard.)

2. For the custard: Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the milk and cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until steam appears and/or an instant-read thermometer held in the liquid registers 160 degrees, 6 to 8 minutes; remove from the heat. Meanwhile, gently whisk the eggs, yolks, and sugar in a large bowl until just combined. Off the heat, gently whisk the warm milk mixture, vanilla, and salt into the eggs until just combined but not at all foamy. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup or container with a pouring spout; set aside.

3. Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a kettle. Meanwhile, fold a dish towel to fit the bottom of a large baking dish or roasting pan and position it in the pan. Divide the reserved custard mixture among the ramekins; place the filled ramekins on the towel in the pan (making sure they do not touch) and set the pan on the oven rack. Fill the pan with boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins; cover the entire pan loosely with aluminum foil so steam can escape. Bake until a paring knife inserted halfway between the center and the edge of the custards comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer the custards to a wire rack; cool to room temperature (The custards can be covered with plastic warp and refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

4. To unmold, slide a paring knife around the perimeter of each ramekin, pressing the knife against the side of the dish. Hold a serving plate over the top of the ramekin and invert; set the plate on the work surface and shake the ramekin gently to release the custard. Serve immediately.

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