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Classic Creme Caramel

Over the years, I've experimented with what should be the best crème caramel, using double cream, crème fraîche and half and half of these in the mixture. Now I prefer to use just single cream, which gives the whole thing a sort of wobbly lightness. So this, I now think, is the ultimate.

 
 
 Classic Creme Caramel

  Serves 4-6

Ingredients
For the caramel:
 6 oz (175 g) white caster sugar
 2 tablespoons tap-hot water
For the custard:
 5 fl oz (150 ml) whole milk
 10 fl oz (275 ml) single cream
 4 large eggs
 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
To serve:
 about 10 fl oz (275ml) pouring cream
 Preheat the oven to gas mark 2, 300F (150C).
Oven temperatures and Conversions
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Equipment
You will also need a soufflé dish with a capacity of 1½ pints (850 ml), 5 inches (13 cm) in diameter, 3 inches (7.5 cm) deep, and a deep roasting tin.

This recipe first appeared in Sainsbury’s Magazine and is also taken from How to Cook Book Two.

Method

Begin by making the caramel. To do this, put the sugar in a saucepan and place it over a medium heat. Leave it like that, keeping an eye on it, until the sugar begins to melt and just turn liquid around the edges, which will take 4-6 minutes. Now give the pan a good shake and leave it again to melt until about a quarter of the sugar has melted.

Now, using a wooden spoon, give it a gentle stir and continue to cook and stir until the sugar has transformed from crystals to liquid and is the colour of dark runny honey – the whole thing should take 10-15 minutes. Then take the pan off the heat and add 2 tablespoons of water, being a bit cautious here, as it sometimes splutters at this stage.

Now you may need to return the pan to a low heat to re-melt the caramel, stirring until any lumps have dissolved again.Then quickly pour two thirds of the caramel into the soufflé dish, tipping it round the base and sides to coat. Now make the custard. To do this, pour the milk and cream into the saucepan containing the rest of the caramel, then place this over a gentle heat and this time use a whisk to thoroughly combine everything. Don't panic if you get a great clag of caramel clinging to your whisk or there's some stuck around the edges of the pan – remember that the saucepan is over the heat and the heat will melt it. Eventually is the word, so be patient. When it's all melted, remove the pan from the heat.

Next, break the eggs into a large bowl or jug and whisk them, then pour the hot milk that's now blended with the remaining caramel into this mixture, whisking it in as you pour. Next, add the vanilla extract and, after that, pour the whole lot through a sieve into the caramel-lined dish. If you have any caramel left on the base of the pan, to clean it fill the pan with hot water and a drop of washing-up liquid and place it over the heat again – then it will wash off easily.

Now place the soufflé dish in the roasting tin and pour in enough hot water to come two thirds of the way up the dish. Place the whole thing on the centre shelf of the pre-heated oven and leave it there for 1¼ hours, until the custard is set in the centre, which means it should feel firm and springy to the touch. Then remove it from the roasting tin and, when it's completely cold, cover with clingfilm and chill thoroughly for several hours in the fridge before turning out.

When you're ready to serve, loosen it around the sides with a palette knife, put quite a deep serving plate on top and then turn it upside down and give it a hefty shake. What you will then have is a delicious, light, set caramel custard surrounded by a pool of golden caramel sauce. Serve it cut in slices with some pouring cream to mingle with the caramel.

 

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