With such a fancy French name, you'd think this week would bring us a complicated recipe that would take three days and involve at least 5 pounds of butter. After making the crème caramel, however, I believe the name is a misnomer. There are basically three ingredients to this dish, and "creme" is generous. A better name, in my opinion, would be "diet flan."
I approached this recipe thinking I was to be making a flan, which I am well-acquainted with, as my mother-in-law makes quite possibly the best leche flan on the face of the planet. Hers is Filipino in origin, using sweetened condensed milk. Others I've eaten have been Mexican, using heavy cream or half-and-half, and solely the yolk of the egg.
This one was different. It used the whole egg: yolk and white. And it called for just 1 tablespoon of sugar per ramekin in the custard. And it called for milk--regular milk. Not sweetened condensed. Not heavy cream. Not even half-and-half. 3.25% fat milk. What I put in my coffee in the morning. Could this really be rich enough to be classified as dessert?
Just a few tips in making this: make sure you don't let your caramel get too dark (I cooked mine a little too much -- aim for a dark copper, not a near-burnt sugar), let it cool in the ramekins at room temperature so the sugar doesn't get soggy, and cool the custard at room temperature once out of the oven (if you throw it into the fridge too soon, you'll get brains like in the last picture in this post). The one tricky part is the same whenever you're cooking custard: knowing when it's done. What you're looking for is an outside rim that is set, and a center that jiggles, but does is not liquid. With this one, it's better to slightly overcook than undercook, but try to take it out just when the center is jiggling.
The result was actually quite delicious. Was it my mother-in-law's leche flan? Of course not. But it wasn't terrible. And it didn't overload me on sugar or fat and make me feel sluggish. It gave me the mild sugar rush I need at the end of the meal, without making me crave more. I stand by that this is a diet flan. But it's not in the same vein as a diet cake, which tastes like cardboard. This is actually worth eating.
makes 6 individual ramekins
160 grams (6 ounces) GRANULATED SUGAR
6 tablespoons WATER
BUTTER, for greasing the ramekins
4 large EGGS
1 teaspoon VANILLA EXTRACT
25 grams (1 ounce) GRANULATED SUGAR
2 cups (600 milliliters) WHOLE MILK
BOILING WATER, for the water bath
HEAVY CREAM, for finishing
1. Preheat oven to 300F and put the ramekins in the oven on a sheet pan
2. Pour the 160 grams of GRANULATED SUGAR and the WATER into a saucepan and dissolve the sugar slowly over a low heat
3. Keep the heat on low and do not stir, as the mixture starts boiling and turns a dark copper color
4. Remove the pan immediately so the caramel doesn't burn and distribute evenly into the warmed ramekins
5. Leave the ramekins out on the countertop to cool completely, until the caramel is hard (do not cool in the fridge, as the sugar will absorb moisture and not harden)
6. Once cooled, butter the sides of the ramekins
1. Whisk the EGGS, VANILLA EXTRACT, and SUGAR together into a bowl until well mixed
2. Pour the MILK into a saucepan and heat over low heat until hot to the touch, but not boiling
3. Pour the heated milk over the egg mixture, while whisking, and continue to whisk quickly until smooth
4. Sieve the custard mixture to separate any egg that may have scrambled
5. Pour the custard evenly into each of the ramekins and place them on a wet paper towel in a baking dish
6. Pour the boiling water into the baking dish until the water reaches halfway up the sides (this is easiest to do with the oven rack pulled halfway out and the dish placed on the rack, so you can just carefully push the rack in, instead of having to carry a dish of boiling water to the oven)--be careful not to get any of the water in the ramekins
7. Cook in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the custard has set around the edges, and is jiggly but not liquid in the center
8. Take the baking dish out of the oven and use tongs to carefully lift the ramekins out of the water and onto a cooling rack
9. Cool completely at room temperature (lest you want your custard bottoms to look like a brain, below), then place in the fridge to chill at least four hours (or overnight)
10. To serve, run a paring knife under hot water and dry the knife, then slip the knife around the edges of the ramekin to loosen; place a serving dish on top of the ramekin and quickly flip dish right side-up, then optionally pour heavy cream over the top
A personal challenge to conquer every technical challenge, and select signature bakes, from The Great British Bake Off
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