As a Taurus, I can be quite stubborn and also a little bit of a glutton for punishment.
So last week, in the middle of one of the busiest weeks in my life (even trumping the week I sent my MA thesis to the binders and every hour I would find another revision that I needed to make, resulting in many tears and much stress), I knew that I was going to make the Food Network Canada’s Community Cooking Challenge dish for the month of April if it killed me. Which, being as it was crème caramel, was quite likely – I had watched my mum make many of these when I was younger but never attempted myself.
I arrived home, exhausted already but determined to have a go at it even if it didn’t work out. Much to my horror, I discovered that I only had one egg in the fridge and there was no way I was going out to get more (it had been one of those weeks). So I simply got out my calculator and divided the recipe below by 6, thinking I would make one tiny individual portion.
I had a bit of trouble with the caramel (though not as much trouble as my friend Suzie – read her story – it’s quite hilarious!) because the measurements were so tiny – 10mls of water? Riiiiiight… It turned a very dark shade of caramel and therefore so was the milk I swished around the saucepan to use for the custard which ended up quite dark as you can see below:
I also was having a bit of a thick moment re: the cooking time. Initially I thought I would divide the cooking time by 6 but not so much. I ended up cooking these babies for about 40 minutes and they were the perfect consistency.
I ended up making two small ones because the custard mixture would not fit into one ramekin but they did deflate slightly when they were cooled down, resulting in little crème caramels the size of small pancakes, albeit the thick fluffy ones.
Laura Calder’s Crème Caramel
1 cup sugar (for the topping)
2 cups fresh whole milk
1 vanilla bean
1/2 cup sugar
pinch nutmeg (optional)
1. Heat the oven to 325°F/160°C. Bring a full kettle of water to the boil, and turn off the heat (this is for the water bath later).
2. Dissolve the sugar for the topping in a saucepan with 1/4 cup/60 ml water, and boil until it turns a dark, fragrant, liquid caramel. Pour into the cake tin and swirl to coat the bottom evenly. Set aside.
3. Pour the milk into the same saucepan, so that it laps up the caramel on the bottom and sides (this is the most brilliant trick for flavour!) Split the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into the milk, and add the pod. Heat to the boiling point, turn off the heat, cover, and set aside to infuse 10 minutes. Meanwhile, beat the eggs with the sugar. Add the nutmeg, if using. Once the milk has infused, whisk it into the egg mixture.
4. Strain the custard over the hardened caramel and set the pan in a larger dish or roasting pan. Pour the boiled water into the bottom pan to come half-way up the sides of the flan. Transfer to the oven and bake until set, 45 minutes to an hour.
5. Remove the flan from the oven and from the water bath. Run a knife around the outside edge to loosen the flan. Cool completely – even chill, if you like. To serve, flip the flan onto a plate, pour over any caramel remaining in the pan. Serve in wedges.
Overall, I was pretty happy with how these came out. No, they were not perfect but I *got* the concept and if I can make them in the dazed and confused state I found myself in last week, I can certainly make them if I put my mind to it. Oh, and if I have more eggs! Mr Neil did not complain either. I will be attempting this again fairly soon…