If I’m doing a proper cooking session, there has to be a decent pud. Dare I whisper it…I might even fancy one that’s a little bit * Christmass-y *. I’m counting down to the holidays: we’ve even put up a decoration.
This is the time when the good oranges start appearing in the shops – I picked up a box of satsumas the other day for just a few pounds. It brought to mind a cooking class I went on a couple of years back, at the Bertinet Kitchen Cookery School in Bath. The theme was French Bistro, there was duck and wine and butter (naturally), and the dessert was orange and cinnamon creme caramel. Just the ticket.
I think creme caramel is one of those dishes that people think is hard, but is actually incredibly simple. What you do need though is a good eye, which comes with experience – it’s important to know how far to take your caramel so that it doesn’t burn, and be able to judge the right level of wobble in your baked caramel. The risk of error is all part of the fun. Here goes.
Adapted from notes given by The Bertinet Kitchen Cookery School
300ml milk (you should use full fat but I had semi-skimmed)
300ml double cream (Oh yes!)
50g caster sugar
2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks
1 cinnamon stick, zest of one large orange (use a microplane) and 1 vanilla pod
For the caramel:
170g granulated sugar
Plus you’ll need either a 6inch diameter heat-proof glass bowl OR 8 dariole moulds to set your creme, a roasting dish, and lots of boiling water.
First we have to infuse the milk and cream. Put both into a small pan and add in the orange zest, cinnamon and vanilla. Heat gently until you get a hint of a simmer, and then leave to cool. Whatever you do, don’t let it boil, else you have a massive clean-up job on your hands.
Next we prepare our moulds. Butter the glass bowl or darioles and place in a high-sided roasting dish. Preheat your oven to 160 celsius and put the kettle on.
Now for the fun: caramel time! Place the sugar and water in a smallish frying pan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. It’s best to use a light coloured pan, so you can watch the colour of the caramel, and don’t use a non-stick as it makes the sugar crystallise. It takes a while to make caramel so you have to be patient, but also watch it like a hawk: one minute it’s pale and the next black. Once the sugar has dissolved let it bubble until you get a medium caramel, it will take about 20 minutes.
Once the colour is right take the caramel IMMEDIATELY off the heat and pour into your heatproof bowl or moulds. It will bubble and will probably go a few shades darker. Swirl the caramel around to coat the sides. This caramel is hot so don’t put your fingers anywhere near it and make sure there are no children/cats offering to ‘help’. I have burnt myself on caramel and reached a level of pain that I have to no wish to ever revisit.
Now, in a new bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks and sugar until just combined. Strain your milk over the eggs through a fine sieve, and mix it all together. Pour your custard over the now-solid caramel. Now move the lot to the oven – your creme should be in the roasting dish – and fill up with boiling water to reach half-way up your mould(s). Like this.
Bake until set but with a bit of jelly-like wobble in the middle. The small moulds take about 10-15 minutes, and the large mould about 30 minutes. Once its done, remove and leave to cool for 30 minutes before covering with cling film and transferring to the fridge. Chill for a good few hours or overnight.
To serve, loosen the moulds in boiling water and slide a round-edged knife around the sides before inverting onto a plate – make sure it has some kind of lip to catch the caramel sauce. You’ll find that a lot of solid caramel stays stuck to the mould, but that is OK. Eat!