This easy creme caramel, similar to flan in its delicate texture, is as simple as it is sophisticated. You’d expect nothing less from the French, yes?
“I find this dessert such a simple comfort,” says author Edd Kimber. “Perhaps it is the memories of eating it as a child, or maybe it’s the texture.” We can’t say for certain, either, exactly what the most compelling component of this creme caramel would be, we’re just grateful it exists in all its silken, sophisticated splendor. One taste and we think you’ll concur.–Renee Schettler
- Deep-fry or candy or instant-read thermometer
For the caramel
- 1/2 cup superfine sugar (or just blitz granulated sugar in a blender until finely ground but not powdery)
- 3 tablespoons cold water
For the custard
- 1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- Generous 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 3 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 4 large or extra-large eggs
- Scant 2/3 cup superfine sugar
Prepare the oven and ramekins
- Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Place four 3 1/2-inch ramekins (or heatproof containers of a similar size) in a roasting pan.
Make the caramel
- Put the sugar and water in a small pan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Once the syrup is clear, stop stirring (this can cause crystallization) and let the pan remain over the heat, without touching it, until the sugar caramelizes, which may take anywhere from 4 to 7 minutes. The second that you have a caramel with a dark copper color, remove the pan from the heat and immediately pour it evenly among the prepared molds. (Be careful that the caramel doesn’t cook too far as it can burn easily.) Let the caramel puddles sit while you make the custard.
Make the custard
- Cut the vanilla bean, if using, in half and scrape out the seeds. Place the seeds or vanilla bean paste in a medium pan and add the milk and cream. Heat gently over medium-low heat until the mixture is hot but not boiling, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place the eggs and sugar in a bowl and beat together until pale. Once the milk mixture has come to temperature, remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour the mixture over the eggs, stirring constantly. Using a ladle, divide this custard equally between the prepared ramekins. Put the roasting pan in the oven and add enough cold water so that it reaches halfway up the sides of the molds. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until the custards have set around the outside but still have a wobble in the center and register 170°F to 175°F (76°C to 79°C) on a deep-fry or candy or instant-read thermometer.
- Carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven. Lift out the custards and put them onto a wire rack to cool. Cover each ramekin with plastic wrap then transfer them to the refrigerator to chill overnight. To serve, use a knife to gently loosen the custards from the ramekins. Place a serving plate on top of each ramekin and invert it to turn the custards out. Make sure all the caramel drains from the ramekin onto the custard. Serve. (The creme caramels will keep, in their ramekins, for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.)
Recipe Testers' Reviews
I’ve made creme caramel many times, and this is one of the best versions I’ve ever had. I used 3-inch ramekins and was able to fill 6 of them. The texture of the custard was pretty much perfect. It was firm but creamy, and the vanilla flavoring came through perfectly. Be sure to take the pan off the stove as soon as the caramel appears to be getting to the correct color, or in just a few more seconds, it will turn a much darker color and become burnt and bitter. Also, to prevent the caramel from continuing to cook, be sure to immediately pour it into the ramekins. I served this with a dollop of freshly made whipped cream. In season, I will also add a few fresh berries to the plate. I used large eggs, and they worked fine.
A classic recipe that's easy to prepare. It has to be made way in advance, which I always think is so convenient. No stress with dessert, and it's absolutely delicious. It's a keeper. Regular large eggs worked just fine. I used a vanilla bean and added the scraped out bean together with the seeds to the milk. I let it come to a simmer, which took 5 minutes, and then steep for 15 minutes. I poured the mixture through a coarse sieve to catch the shells. It took me way longer to bake the custard. After 30 minutes, it was still very liquid-y. It started to set after 40 minutes, and I pulled the molds from the oven after 50 minutes. It would probably help to add hot water instead of cold in the beginning. No problems whatsoever when it came to serving the creme. Just slid a small knife along the rim, and they came out after inverting. Plenty of sauce.
Originally published March 06, 2016