I do not think that I burned the caramel but it sure was a close call. The extreme darkness did make it more of a bitter than sweet dessert. My husband did not like this dessert at all. In fact, he will only try it again if I add a chocolate sauce to it. I am sure slathering it with chocolate will be a big culinary sin to French food. Oh well!
This month’s Food Network Cooking Club challenge is Laura Calder’s Creme Caramel. There is lots of time to participate so please join us if you dare!
Creme Caramel, you are so misunderstood. Looking at your recipe, you come across as so simple to make. So, dare I say, easy? Sugar, whole milk, vanilla bean, eggs, sugar and a pinch of nutmeg and that is all there is to it.
Deceptively simplistic in its components, complex in its method, this recipe kicked my butt. Please, learn from my mistakes and laugh if you must! I would not blame you for one second.
After boiling water in your tea kettle for the bain-marie (waterbath), you dissolve sugar in some water and boil and boil away. I wish Laura had mentioned brushing the sides with a pastry brush and water. I figured that would be good technique to prevent the build up of sugar crystals and should have just done it anyway but I wanted to follow the recipe as written. Sigh, there ended up being a build up, big time.
Now I have made caramel before and know that once it gets to this golden colour I need to remove it from the heat and remove it fast. I completely disagree with Laura’s instructions here. She says to boil it until it turns dark and fragrant. Well I didn’t and guess what happened?
It still went dark and fragrant. Imagine if I had left it on the stove! Even after moving it from the heat it continued to darken and I mean DARKEN! Not only that, the recipe said to pour the caramel into a cake tin but it did not specify size. I put it first in my traditional 7″ tin and it was obviously too small, the caramel filled it up halfway. I got out my 8″ tin and poured the caramel into it while it still continued to darken. Crazy!
On Foodtv.ca’s forums, I had to ask about “whole milk”. I could not find such a thing. I did find homogenized milk and asked if it was the same or could it be used as a replacement? Turns out they are basically the same thing so yes, I could use it. I used a real vanilla bean and scraped out all the seeds and put them and the pod into the same saucepan I used for the caramel. I heated up the milk, covered it and let it steep.
I beat six eggs together with 1/2 cup of sugar and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. Then I tempered in the milk and vanilla seeds. I sieved the custard on top of the caramel. In order to find a vessel that this cake pan would fit in I had to get out my big KitchenAid roasting pan. I filled it with hot water from my kettle and baked at 325F for an hour, 45 minutes was not long enough. Then I used a knife around the sides to loosen it and let it come to room temperature. I chilled the creme caramel overnight.
I had one opportunity to videotape me flipping the creme caramel live. Sadly it was a typical dark and dreary day in Nova Scotia so I apologize for how dark the video is. Please, don’t laugh too hard. I was hesitant to put this video up but last night watching Julie & Julia, I decided to rely on the strength of my convictions and go for it. Thank you Julia Child.
Overall, I believe this recipe is poorly and irresponsibly written. When you work with boiling sugar, you should not be second guessing yourself and running around your kitchen trying to find appropriate pans. I like the idea that this is a simple recipe so the instructions should be kept simple but the truth is, this is not a simple recipe. It is only simple if you have made it before and I have and still had issues with it.
I adore Laura and wanted so much to say I loved every second of this recipe but the lack of instruction stressed me out. I felt abandoned in my kitchen. I will not be making this one again. I give this recipe two out of five wooden spoons. What a shame!