Creme Caramel Help
I am doing a dinner party for my SOs bday on October 30th. Last night he said that he would love creme caramel for dessert. I have never made it (and dont really like any flans) but am going to give it a whirl. Does anyone have a recipe they swear by and do you think it is better to make individual ones ( I do have ramekins) or one larger one, and if I do a large one, what dish should I use? Thanks in advance for your tips.
I've made creme caramel in both individual and large baking dishes. For a more elegant presentation, you should do individual ones - but they should be smallish. The dessert tends to be pretty rich and I find that less is more in that case. For a more casual crowd (family, for instance) I'd do one big pan - I usually make it in an oval baking dish (approximately 9 x 13 but oval) and slice it to serve with a spoonful of the caramel sauce.
If you have never made creme caramel before, here are some suggestions. First, make it a day ahead to allow the caramel to dissolve into as sauce as the dessert chills. And second, when you unmold the custards, make sure the serving plate(s) are large enough to contain both the custard and the sauce.
The following is my recipe. This is a lower fat version of the classic dessert, because I often made it for my family, not necessarily for a fancy dinner. If you want to increase the hoo-boy quotient, you can substitute cream for part or all of the milk called for in the recipe. Another thing that will make it richer would be to use 6 egg yolks instead of 3 whole eggs.
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp. water
2-1/2 cups milk, heated until hot but not boiling
1/2 tsp. vanilla
In your smallest, heaviest skillet, cook 1/2 cup of the sugar with the water over medium heat, stirring constantly. First the sugar will dissolve, then the whole business will go all clumpy and weird, then - amazingly - the sugar will melt and turn golden and syrupy. Don't try to hurry this process because sugar can burn easily. Once it turns golden, remove the pan from the heat, let it cool for just a minute, and then pour evenly into the bottoms of six 1/2-cup glass or pottery custard cups. Set these aside.
Beat the eggs with the remaining 1/4 cup of the sugar, then add the hot milk, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the vanilla.
Pour the milk mixture into the sugar-lined custard cups (the sugar will solidify). Set these custard cups into a baking pan large enough to hold them all, and pour enough boiling water into the pan to have it come about halfway up the sides of the cups. Put the pan into the oven, and bake at 350º F for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a knife poked into the middle of one of the cups comes out clean, with nothing stuck to it.
Cool your crème caramels to room temperature, then refrigerate for several hours, or overnight. When you are ready to serve, run a thin knife around the edge of each custard to loosen it from its cup, then unmold each one onto a plate. The melted sugar will have mostly dissolved into a delicious caramel sauce, which you should pour over the custard.
Makes 6 servings.
What happens is that first you pour the melted sugar (caramel) into the ramekin and swirl it around so that it coats the bottom and partly up the sides. Let it harden. Then you pour your custard mixture into this and bake it. The caramel will partly absorb into the custard but most of it will remain on the sides of the dish. During the overnight refrigeration, the custard weeps out some liquid which dissolves some of the caramel and becomes sort of saucy. When you unmold the custard onto the serving plate, run a thin knife around the edges so that the custard plops out. At the bottom there will be a pool of syrupy caramel sauce which should be poured over and around the custard. Some of the caramel will remain stuck to the ramekin but that's normal. You'll still have enough sauce and the caramel will easily come out when you wash the dishes. Does this help?
I think a big one is a bit more impressive, but only practical if you expect to eat it all in one sitting, that is, you have guests. I have made it in a souffle dish and in a ring mold as well as ramekins. Whatever you use, if you plan to unmold, make it a day ahead--not so much for the sauce to form--that happens pretty quickly actually, but so that it will set up firmly enough to unmold.
I make it often, but frequently don't bother to unmold it. I just scoop out portions of sauce and custard. Not as fancy, but tastes as good and you can eat it still warm.
Another tip: carmelizing the sugar is the only hard part. Make it easier on yourself by using pure cane sugar. Through lots of trial and error, I have found that cane sugar is much easier to melt and caramelizing. It may clump initially but it will melt out as Nyleve says. Beet sugar will NOT--it will just clump and drive you crazy.
I really like the recipe from Daisy Martinez, the host of Daisy Cooks on PBS:
I usually add a little orange zest to the custard for an added zip.
I've only made whole flans (I don't have any ramekins) and have made it in a large deep pie plate and a rectangle pyrex baking dish.