"This is my all-time favourite dessert. For years I’ve made it with a half cream and half milk, which is the recipe I inherited from Mum and grew up eating. It was only about six years ago a French friend told me that a traditional crème caramel uses only milk – the result, a much lighter, even silkier custard. It’s up to you how far you want to take your caramel – I prefer a lovely, rich mahogany." Poh Ling Yeow, Poh & Co. 2
- 900 ml full-cream milk
- 6 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
- 370 g (1⅔ cups) sugar
- 1½ tsp vanilla bean paste
- 60 ml (¼ cup) water
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
You will need to begin this recipe one day ahead if cooling the caramel overnight.
Resting time 2 hours 10 minutes
Refrigerating time 2 hours or overnight
Heat the milk in a non-stick saucepan over medium heat until hot but not boiling.
Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, 150 g (⅔ cup) of the sugar and the vanilla bean paste in a large stainless steel bowl until combined but not frothy. Pour in half of the hot milk and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining hot milk and whisk gently until just combined. Set aside.
Boil 220 g (1 cup) of the sugar and the water in a small non-stick saucepan over high heat until the sugar has dissolved and a pale-golden caramel forms; at this stage, watch closely as it can turn from a perfect deep golden to smoking black within seconds. Remove the caramel from the heat a little before it turns the preferred colour, as it will keep getting darker very quickly (see Note). Immediately tip the caramel into a 20 cm cake tin, swirling to coat the base and side evenly with caramel. Leave to set for 10 minutes before using.
Preheat the oven to 200˚C fan-forced (220˚C).
Pour the custard mixture into the prepared cake tin through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps. Place a clean Chux or tea towel in the base of a deep baking dish. Place the tin of crème caramel on top of the towel and fill halfway up the side of the tin with boiling water.
Reduce the oven temperature to 160˚C fan-forced (180˚C), cover the tin with foil and bake for 1 hour or until the crème caramel wobbles when the cake tin is jiggled; if it ripples under the cooked surface it means is not cooked.
Leave to cool in the tin for at least 2 hours. Carefully turn out onto a deep serving dish to catch the caramel, then refrigerate for 2 hours or until chilled completely. Cut into pieces and serve.
• Taking it further imparts a slight bitterness which cuts through the sweetness beautifully, but it’s completely personal, so tailor the caramel to how you like it. If you want all the caramel to liquefy, refrigerating it overnight will do the trick.
Photography, styling and food preparation by China Squirrel.
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