With winter slowly disappearing and the hours of daylight increasing, the Little Hill Farm chickens have finally begun laying eggs once more and the farm is again overflowing with fresh eggs. Eggs are a wonderful food ingredient, simply poached on a thick slab of farm baked bread for breakfast, used to create a hearty quiche or frittata for lunch or my personal favourite – an indulgent dessert.
Since the weather conditions were fairly poor on the farm yesterday, with limited opportunity to do much outside work, I thought I would spend some time in the kitchen creating a special dessert for Adam and myself, which would utilise a few of the excess eggs available at present – I settled for a luscious, silky crème caramel with a orange and nut brittle topping.
Although many may think a crème caramel is old-fashioned and far too difficult to create at home, I say nonsense … anything that tastes good could never be considered old-fashioned it merely becomes a classic and as for being too complicated, it truly isn’t – you simply need to juggle a little time.
There are literally hundreds of different versions of a crème caramel but all will include the basic principles of milk, eggs and sugar for the custard component and of course sugar and water for the caramel. The ratio of the ingredients is what creates the endless variety, the higher the milk content to eggs the lighter the baked custard element, the more sugar to water in the caramel the thicker and more brittle it will be.
My version will produce a sturdy, yet silky custard with a hard caramel top and limited excess sauce. Want your custard to be richer add 1 cup of thickened cream, want excess caramel to fill the bowl – double the water.
Traditional Crème Caramel
Makes 6 to 8 serves (depending on ramekin size)
Ingredients – custard for baking
900 ml full-cream milk
150 grams sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or liqueur of choice.
Ingredients – caramel
200 grams sugar
⅓ cup water (75 mls)
1. Place milk in a saucepan and heat until the milk is just warm, this is when you begin to see small bubbles appear on the outer edge of the milk.
2. In a bowl, place eggs, sugar and vanilla and whisk rapidly until all ingredients are well combined and the liquid has a frothy skin (approximately 5 minutes.
3. Take milk and gently pour a quarter into the egg/sugar mixture whilst whisking continuously. Gradually add the remaining milk a little at a time, whilst whisking, until fully combined. Set aside and make caramel.
4. Place sugar and water in a small pot and heat over a medium to high heat until the sugar has melted and the liquid commences to change colour.
Do not stir the pot as this may cause crystallisation to occur at the edges of the caramel and
watch it very carefully once it begins to change colour. Caramel (or in this case toffee really) will change from pale brown to burnt very quickly.
5. When the caramel comes close to the colour you like remove it from the heat immediately, it will continue to cook and darken even when removed.
6. Take a number of oven-proof ramekins. Pour a little caramel into one of the ramekins and work quickly swirling it around the base and sides so it creates a coating. Then repeat for the remaining ramekins one at a time.
Be very careful, hot caramel/toffee is VERY HOT and can cause sever burns.
7. Place the ramekins into a large baking tray and fill the tray with water so it rises half way up the outside surface of the ramekin.
8. Strain the custard mixture through a sieve into a pouring cup/jug and fill each ramekin to just below the top.
9. Cover with aluminium foil and gently place the baking tray into a pre-heated oven at 170° C and cook for 1 hour.
10. The crème caramel is cooked once it can be wobbled gently and the centre section is solid rather than liquid.
11. Remove the baking tray from the oven and allow the ramekins to sit in the baking tray water bath until cool. Once cool remove ramekins from water and place into the fridge for at least 2 hours.
The longer the crème caramels sit in the fridge the more the caramel softens and seeps into the baked custard surface.
12. Run a warm knife around the outer edge of the ramekins and turn into a bowl or saucer, making sure to allow any excess caramel in the ramekin to fall over the baked custard . Serve as is or top with my crunchy orange and nut brittle.
Head to my recipe for Orange and Nut Brittle
To remove any hard toffee on pots and ramekins, place them in a hot water bath and allow them to soak for a period of time so the toffee softens and dissolves.