Silky smooth custard, boasting the flavor of pure vanilla and topped with a glossy caramel layer, this crème caramel recipe is a French dessert you’ll keep coming back to time after time. Made in a traditional water bath using baking ramekins and staple ingredients like eggs and milk, this easy dessert is simple to whip up and impresses even your most fancy guests!
History of Crème Caramel
Also referred to as flan, this dessert made popular rounds in French restaurants starting in the late 20th century. It can be made with minimal ingredients, minimal effort, and easily made ahead of time, making it perfect for busy French restaurants catering lots of patrons.
What is the Difference Between Flan and Crème Caramel?
Both desserts are made very similar to each other. Speaking in a manner of technicality, flan can include other ingredients and can include pastry (a sponge base) that’s filled with sweet or savory fillings.
The French version of this dessert is simply prepared and served as a sweet custard made up of eggs and milk.
What’s the Difference Between Crème Brûlée and Crème Caramel?
Both are custard recipes, but the difference lies in the ratio of eggs and milk.
While they’re prepared similarly, the different ratios will either cause a creamy, pudding-like dessert (crème brûlée), or a gelatin-like dessert (crème caramel).
How Do You Make Crème Caramel from Scratch?
To create the crème, you’ll combine whole eggs and yolks with sugar. You’ll then stream in warm milk (infused with vanilla) and whisk everything together.
To make your caramel sauce, you’ll add sugar and water to a saucepan, then warm it up over medium heat without stirring. Once the mixture has achieved a golden brown tint, you’ll distribute the sauce among your ramekins to set and harden along the bottom.
Filled with crème batter, the ramekins will then be transferred to a baking dish (think casserole dish), and surrounded by boiling water to create a “bain-marie.” Then it’s just a matter of popping the baking dish into the oven and cooking the custards to perfection!
How Do You Know When Crème Caramel is Cooked?
This is probably the question most people deliberate over when it comes to making baked custards.
The answer is simple; as soon as your custard has a slight tremble in the center but is set along the edges, you’ll want to pull the custard out of the oven.
Why Does My Crème Caramel Taste Eggy?
If your dessert tastes eggy, that means you’ve overcooked your custard. Again, that’s why you want to take the crème caramel out of the oven when it still has a slight wobble to it.
Serving Your Dessert
After your dessert has been chilled in the fridge, you’ll gently run a sharp knife around the edges of the ramekin a couple of times before placing a serving dish over it and flipping it out onto the dish.
Tips for Making Crème Caramel at Home
This exquisite French dessert is simple enough to make at home, but if this your first time making a custard like this, then here are some tips you’ll want to take note of before you begin:
- When warming the milk, be sure not to let the milk come to a simmer or boil. Instead, warm just until there’s steam rising from it.
- When adding the hot milk to the egg batter, do this slowly and whisk the entire time. This is a technique called tempering and is vital to avoiding scrambled eggs in your batter!
- When you’re making caramel sauce, resist the urge to stir the sugar and water. Stirring can cause the sugar to clump. Instead, when the sugar dissolves and it begins to turn an amber color, you can give your whole saucepan a swirl rather than use any kind of utensil to stir.
- Check on your custard consistently (every few minutes) after it’s been in the oven for 30 minutes. It’s better to rely on the “wobble test” for your custard’s doneness rather than any given baking time as ovens vary. Once the custard has only a slight wobble in the center, you’ll know it’s time to remove it from the oven.
- When removing the custard from the ramekin, use a sharp knife to run around the edges of the ramekin a couple of times. If your custard is stuck, don’t fret. Be patient and try again.
- To serve your dessert warm rather than chilled, place the ramekins in a cold water bath after they come out of the oven for a duration of 10 minutes. Then proceed with running your knife around the edges and flipping the custard out as directed.
For the batter
- 3 eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 ½ cups whole milk
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp vanilla bean powder, or 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the caramel sauce
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup water
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Gather 6 (6 oz.) ramekins. Set a kettle of water on the stove to warm up until boiling.
- Meanwhile, prepare the egg batter. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar together until well-blended.
- Warm the milk over the stove over medium-low heat, add vanilla bean powder if you’re using that. Warm until steam begins to rise from the milk but it hasn’t begun to simmer or boil yet.
- Very slowly stream the warm milk into the egg batter, whisking the egg batter as you do. Continue whisking until you’ve added all the milk and everything is combined well. If you’re using vanilla extract, you can add that in now. Temporarily set the batter aside.
- Create your caramel sauce by adding the sugar to a stainless steel saucepan(if you don’t have one, just use what you have). Pour the water over the sugar then place the saucepan over medium heat, taking care NOT to stir the sugar-water mixture. Instead, let this mixture warm over the heat until the sugar dissolves and it begins to turn a warm amber color. At that point, you can give the saucepan a stir (but don’t use any utensils to stir). Continue to heat the sauce a little longer until it turns a little darker brown.
- Remove the sauce from the heat and immediately distribute it among your ramekins, giving each ramekin a quick swirl to distribute the sauce along the bottom of each dish. After a minute, the sauce will harden in each ramekin.
- Once the sauce has hardened, give your egg batter a quick whisk again before distributing the batter among the ramekins. Place the ramekins in a casserole dish, then transfer to the middle rack of your oven.
- Pour the boiling water from the kettle at the corner of the casserole dish, pouring into the dish so that water reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Be careful not to pour any water inside the actual ramekins.
- Bake the creme batter for 30 to 40 minutes, checking on the custard at the 30 minute mark. Once the custard only has a slight wobble, or tremble, in the center but the edges are set, it’s ready to come out of the oven. Once you take it out of the oven, remove each ramekin from the baking dish, placing each on the counter to cool until they’re just warm. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled.
- To remove the custard from the ramekins, run a sharp knife along the edge of each ramekin. Retrace a couple of more times before placing a serving dish on top of each ramekin. Flip the custard out of the ramekin and onto the plate. If your custard is being stubborn, simply flip it back over and run your knife along the edges again, then place the dish on top and try flipping again.