This easy Crème Caramel is one dessert that I can have any time anywhere. In my house, it is considered the king of desserts. It’s a custard-based, creamy and silky delight covered with flavorful caramel sauce. In this post, you will find tips and tricks to make this elegant dessert a hit every time you make it, I also share two methods of cooking it. Don’t forget to watch the video tutorial!
What is Crème Caramel?
Crème Caramel is a French dessert; it is custard-based and is made with eggs, milk, sugar, and a caramel sauce. With time the recipe has changed a little. You can see many variations of crème caramel in texture and flavor.
If you are in the Philippines, you will probably come across this desert. It is known there as Flan or Leche Flan; the name is taken from the Spanish word Leche Flan which means (Milk Flan). Next, I will explain the difference between Crème Caramel and Flan, but I assure you that you will fall in love with it!
Crème Caramel vs Flan
As I have mentioned before, the essential ingredients for both don’t change, milk, sugar, eggs. However, Flan is much thicker than Crème Caramel, and that’s because whole eggs and egg yolks are used beside condensed and evaporated milk. Flan is usually much sweeter than Crème Caramel. I made a vanilla flan cake which I'm sure you'll enjoy.
Ingredients of Crème Caramel
Eggs. Use large eggs at room temperature. If what you have are medium eggs, then add one more egg to the ingredients.
Milk. Using low-fat milk or skim milk will not give this dish a creamy texture, and the crème might collapse after baking.
Sugar. I have used fine sugar in the crème and in making the caramel sauce, but you can use raw sugar instead.
Vanilla. You can use orange or lemon zest instead; some add two tablespoons of espresso to convert it into a coffee-flavored crème.
How does it taste?
Crème Caramel’s flavor will remind you of vanilla pudding. However, it is richer in taste; it is more towards Crème Brulee, and the texture is very close to panna cotta but a little firmer.
How to make Crème Caramel?
- Before making the caramel or the custard, Preheat the oven. Most ovens take 20 minutes to preheat.
- Make the caramel. We will make the caramel first because it needs to set and cool before pouring the custard over it. In a pan, add the sugar and water and cook until it reaches a dark golden color, and then turn off the heat. While cooking the caramel sauce, do not stir it but swirl the pan now and then instead. Careful not to burn yourself. Pour the caramel sauce immediately into the ramekins.
- Make the custard. In a bowl, add the eggs and vanilla, beat until combine. Don’t beat until it becomes frothy. In a pan, add the milk and sugar, mix and then heat until it comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and slowly add it to the eggs while whisking the eggs to prevent them from cooking.
- Run the custard mixture through a sieve to discard any cooked bits from the eggs and get a smooth custard.
- Pour the custard mixture over the caramel layer. Cover each ramekin with aluminum foil and place them in a large roasting pan.
- Pour boiling water in the roasting pan, make sure that the water reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for an hour and 10 minutes or until it has a little giggle. Remember, if you are using smaller or bigger ramekins than mine, then the baking time will be different.
- Remove the crème caramel from the roasting pan and place it on a cooling rack to cool completely. When it reaches room temperature, cover and place it in the fridge to set.
- To serve, run the tip of a sharp knife around the crème caramel. Place the serving plate over the ramekin while holding both the ramekin and the serving plate, flip the ramekin, and let the crème caramel fall on the serving plate.
- Please read the tips and tricks below before making the crème caramel. It will help you a lot!
How to make Crème Caramel on the stovetop?
- Follow the same steps above, except you don’t have to preheat the oven.
- Place the covered ramekins in a large pan, a pan you can use on the stovetop.
- Pour boiling water in the large pan, make sure that the water reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
- The cooking time will be shorter because you are cooking on direct flame. The Crème Caramel should be ready within 35 to 45 minutes.
- When it's at room temperature, cover it, and refrigerate it to set overnight or for 2 hours.
Tips and Tricks to make easy Crème Caramel
- To reduce the eggy smell and taste from any dessert that has eggs, including crème caramel, remove the chalaza, the whitish thick and stringy part in an egg.
- Have the eggs at room temperature; this way, the eggs won’t cook when you add the hot milk to temper it.
- Beat the egg until the egg white is no longer visible but don’t beat the eggs until it froths.
- Use whole milk to make crème caramel.
- Use boiling water for the water bath; using cold water will increase the cooking time.
- Cover each ramekin with foil. Never cover the whole pan with aluminum foil; if you do, the custard will boil, have holes inside, and taste like scrambled eggs.
- Overbaking will result in curdling the eggs; the custard will smell and taste very eggy.
- Always run the custard through a strainer after mixing with hot milk to remove any cooked bits from the eggs.
- If you decide to use orange or lemon zest to the custard, add it after straining the custard.
- Don’t serve until chilled for at least an hour. Chilling makes the texture firmer, so when you flip the crème caramel, it will not collapse. Chilling also enhances the flavor and reduces the smell and taste of eggs.
- Please, never use the caramel sauce from the store in this recipe. It will not harden and will mix with the custard.
How to unmold crème caramel without breaking it?
Now that you have baked this delicate and elegant dessert, you fear flipping it and breaking it! No worries, there are a few tricks that will help you out.
- Refrigerate the crème caramel overnight, or at least for an hour and a half.
- Run a thin knife around the ramekin's inner side; you don’t have to go all the way to the bottom; you need to break the seal the custard has formed by sticking to the sides of the ramekin.
- If you did the above and it didn’t fall on the serving plate, place the ramekin straight in one hand and gently tap all the ramekin sides; it should help the crème caramel release from the sides. Then flip the ramekin on the serving plate.
- You can place the ramekin in a warm water bath for two minutes before flipping.
- Another way is to flip the ramekin on the serving plate, and then and while holding both, give it a gentle shake, and the crème caramel should release.
How to store it?
The crème caramel can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days. If the crème is in the ramekin, then cover the ramekin with a plastic wrap and refrigerate. If you have made a large-sized crème caramel and have flipped it, wrap the whole plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
I do not recommend freezing this dessert, it has a good amount of milk, and milk does not freeze well. The texture will change, and you won’t enjoy it!
Variations you might consider
My love for Crème Caramel or Flan made me try it with different flavors. In my blog, you can find Pumpkin Flan, Sweet Potato Cream Caramel, and Saffron and Cardamom Flan. Have a look at those posts. You might want to give these recipes a try!
Easy Creme Caramel Recipe
FOR THE CARAMEL SAUCE
- 6 tablespoon sugar
- 3 tablespoon water
FOR THE CUSTARD
- 3 large eggs
- 2 ¼ cups whole milk Read Note #1
- 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla Read Note #2
- ½ cup of sugar
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Most ovens take around 20 minutes to reach the desired temperature.
- Start boiling water for the water bath while making the caramel sauce.
TO MAKE THE CARAMEL SAUCE
- In a pan, add the sugar and water. Do not mix yet.
- Turn on the heat to medium and let the sugar dissolves.
- Swirl the pan to cook the caramel evenly.
- When the color of the caramel sauce turns dark golden or amber, turn off the heat.
- Pour the caramel in 4 ramekins that can take 1 cup of liquid, or you can use an 8-inch cake pan to make one large Crème Caramel. Immediately tilt the pan or the ramekin in a circular motion to help the caramel spread and coat the ramekin's bottom evenly.
TO MAKE THE CUSTARD
- In a mixing bowl, add the eggs and vanilla. Whisk the mixture until the egg white is no longer visible. Keep aside.
- In a saucepan, add the milk and sugar. Let this mixture come to a simmer on low heat.
- Pour the milk slowly and gradually over the egg mixture while whisking to temper the eggs.
- Place a strainer over another bowl, pour through the custard mixture, and then pour it into the previously prepared ramekins.
- Cover each ramekin with aluminum foil and then place them in a large pan or a roasting pan.
- Fill the large roasting pan halfway with boiling water, and then place it in the preheated oven.
- The Crème Caramel is ready within 45 minutes, or if the ramekins are larger or the amount of custard you have poured is more than one cup, then the cooking time might go up 1 hour and 10 minutes.
- Place the ramekin over a cooling rack to cool completely and refrigerate overnight or at least for 2 hours.
- To serve this dessert, run the tip of a knife around the ramekin's edges to release the crème caramel. Place the serving plate over the ramekin. While holding both the ramekin and the serving plate, flip the ramekin.
- If you want a softer texture, add an additional ¼ cup of milk.
- You can add other flavorings like lemon and orange zest or spices like cinnamon. Store the crème caramel for not more than 4 days.
- Please read the tips and tricks in the post above.
- Also, read how to unmold the crème caramel above.
- How to cook the crème caramel on the stovetop is mentioned above.
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