Cream Caramel’s, it seems, TV Chef's food writers and bloggers all have an opinion on how a Cream Caramel should be made and what ingredients goes into them. So, in order not to be out done here my take of this little French Dessert, and whilst we may believe this to be a French in origin there are variations of this pudding all around the world. In its most basic form the custard is made with milk, eggs and sugar with a little vanilla, I use 50% milk and 50% cream. The consistency of a cream caramel should be a close to a wobbly jelly as possible and yet retain its shape, and it should be free of any bubbles in the custard, and should be silky smooth. That’s why I use such a low oven temperature towards the end of the cooking.
A note Regarding the Carmel: I have seen other chefs put sugar into a pan without water and heat it up to a caramel, but in my opinion this produces a bitter taste as the sugar just burns, which I don't like, so I always start my caramel with water even though I may have to spend 10 minutes waiting to boil the water away.
Put 500 grams of your sugar in a stainless steel pan with 1/3 cup of water and place on the stove and bring to the boil.
don't shake the pan sugar crystals may start forming around the edge of the pan.
While the syrup is boiling place your molds in a suitable gastronome tray, I use the 10 cm deep tray for this. and the molds I use are ceramic and have a capacity of 250ml which gives a reasonable size individual cream caramel.
Go back to the stove and stay with your caramel, it won't be long before it starts to caramelize. this is the browning process that takes place once the water evaporates and the sugar reaches higher temperature causing the browning effect. Be careful as the browning accelerates as it gets darker and it can go too dark in seconds.
Special note;- Take great care when making caramel it is extremely hot and will cause very serious burns if splashed on the skin.
When you feel the caramel has reached a suitable stage of golden syrup remove it from the heat and carefully add 1/3 of a cup of cold water, taking care to stand well back as it will spit and splutter for a moment, shake the pan as you do this. Immediately pour your caramel into the molds as it will continue to brown in the pan, we want to pour it while it is still hot, as it cools in the molds it will harden.
Put your room temperature eggs vanilla essence and the remaining 400 grams of sugar in a suitable mixing bowl and whisk.
Heat the milk and cream to approximately 50 degrees C this is to ensure that the is no chill on the custard when in enters the oven. But at this temperature it won't cook the eggs when added.
Whisk the warm milk and cream into the eggs then pour direct into your caramel molds, You can strain the egg custard before placing in the molds if you wish.
Fill your gastronome tray with very hot tap water to approximately 2/3 up the side of your caramel molds.
To illustrate the benefits for warming the milk and cream I have taken the temperature of the egg custard just before putting the cream caramels in the oven, you can see the Custard is already at 35°C. This will ensure the custard cooks more efficiently, if the custard were to be chilled before going in the oven they would take much longer to cook, and it is likely the custard will not cook evenly the custards may start to boil around the outer edge of the container before the heat has penetrated to the middle of the custard.
Carefully place your tray of cream caramels into a pre heated oven on approximately 140°C to 150°C and set the timer for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes check to see if the custard is almost set, do this by removing the tray from the oven and put the blade of a knife into one of the cream caramels and move in 3 mm sideways so as to open up a slight hole in the custard. if the hole floods with liquid custard return to the oven, lower the heat to 130°C and set the timer for a further 10 minutes. (If the custard is set and there is no visable liquid custard, remove from the oven).
After 10 minutes check your caramels again. What we are looking for is to see that the custard has set right the way through and there is no liquid custard visible
Once the custard is cooked remove from the oven and allow to cool, once they have cooled place them in the fridge until required for service
When the cream caramels are fully chilled to the core remove how many of them you want for service from the fridge, the remaining cream caramels will keep very well for several days, but I use a 3 day rule, use them all within 3 days,(day 4 they go in the bin, that's my personal choice but they would still be good at 5 days if stored properly).
Choose a suitable tray on silver flat or place them on individual plates, do this by pressing the top edge of the pudding to release the skin from the side of your mould. You may see some caramel liquid appear as you do this, this is a good sign.
Carefully tip the mold upside down onto your plate or tray and your caramel should just slide out, ensure you let every drop of the lovely caramel form the mold flood the custard. Take note of this close up image of the cream caramel there are no air bubbles and I can tell you that these cream caramels were silky smooth on the pallet, a creamy caramel flavoured jell like texture that was just perfect. Air Bubble in a cream caramel mean the custard has boiled and this changes the texture causing the custard to lose the smoothness.
Although a Cream Carmel requires nothing further a little pouring cream can be nice or a garnish of a little crème Chantilly and cherries just adds a an attractive finish, as can be seen in the feature image.