Kitchen Bootcamp: Custards

This month’s Kitchen Bootcamp was Custards, Creams and Mousses and I knew right away that I wanted to tackle the Culinary Institute of America’s crème caramel.  This was a dessert that I really enjoyed when my mum would make it for dinner parties when I was little, but I have never managed to make a decent one myself. I tried making it once last year but it was a bit of a disaster so I was intent on getting it right this time.  Mostly the issue for me is not the custard but the caramel so this time, I wanted to make sure I got it right. And did I?  Nearly…

Well, even though my topping was not as neat and smooth as the one pictured on page 1135 of The Professional Chef, I was pretty happy.  They tasted wonderfully creamy, the caramel was not *too* dark (though a touch darker than I really would have liked) and the custard a gorgeous buttery yellow… I used different sizes and shapes of ramekins too to see what I preferred…

(decided I prefer the traditional round ones but the square makes for a funky change)

Then just after I had made these for friends, I was cleaning out the pantry and discovered a package of Mexican flan that I picked up on our last trip to Mexico. I figured I would make a small batch to see what they tasted like in comparison to a recipe with real eggs and cream.  Look at the mix itself – kind of strange, no?

An odd mix – rather like cane sugar in consistency.  All you do is mix it with hot milk.  Seemed easy enough – however, check out the package behind the dish. I mean, does this not suggest that you will have some kind of caramely sauce at the end of the process? (I checked the packaging and my Spanish is good enough to read all the ingredients as well as decipher phrases like “Serving suggestion” which did not appear). Alas, no. No caramel. Except the little bit I saved from the bottom of one of the crème caramels.

Result? Well they were ok, definitely edible. Not what I would serve guests but I might eat this myself if I lived in a tiny apartment with no proper kitchen. The sort of comfort food I would definitely have eaten when I lived in Paris. But does not hold a candle to the rich, creamy taste of a proper crème caramel.

My custard quest continued quite by chance when I found myself making a cherry clafoutis for Murdoch Books 365 Challenge:

And lastly, I attempted Portuguese custard tarts with a twist as part of Sippity Sup’s “Savoring Summer” series. Here’s a sneak peek…

Curious? Head on over to check out my post (and recipe) here!

Want to join us working through the chapters of the Professional Chef? Check out the Kitchen Bootcamp page here and buy The Professional Chef on or

48 thoughts on “Kitchen Bootcamp: Custards”

  1. Loved your bootcamp experiments with custard. I also buy packaged foods when I travel – I came back from Italy with three envelopes of artichoke risotto mix! I’m used to making large pans of flan; for some reason the smaller ramekin versions of flan and creme caramel intimidate me. It should probably be the other way around!

  2. I love this post – love everything with custard and great how you’ve taken us through all of them here. Love the crème caramels in different mold shapes – looks fabulous. This is uncanny: yesterday I dug out a recipe for Pasteis de nata from a Portuguese friend (since it uses lots of egg yolks!) and your last photo of these magnificent pastries look so perfect. I’m inspired so much to make them now. Checking out your recipe since they look better than the ones we had in Portugal!

  3. You may not be surprised to hear that this is one of my favourite posts of yours ever. Don’t fancy the packet much though! Heading off to look at those Portuguese tarts – made them myself recently from a Jamie O recipe. What a disaster. Hope to find better inspiration from yours.

  4. Your crème caramels look wonderful. I love the *funky* look of the square one. I tried making caramel sauce several months ago, took me three attempts to get the right consistency and I’ve never yet made a custard. Going to check out your tart now.

  5. Beautiful pics and extensive variety of ALL kinds of custard. I have a love/hate relationship with custard. My grandmother would always make us homemade custard when we were sick. So, some of my memories of her custard (which I am sure was fabulous) are mixed with memories of the flu!!!!!

  6. You had yourself your own little test kitchen! the square creme caramel is different, but it’s tough to stray away from the traditional one.
    And as someone who had one of the Portugese Custard tarts…better actually than I had recently at an actual Portugese resto!

  7. Mardi – you really are brilliant, really. your work is consistently great – not just good, but great; you challenge yourself and produce some of the most fabulous food on the internet. love that you’ve given us 4 different examples – i want to try every single one!

  8. All the photos are lovely Mardi.
    The flan in a box is interesting indeed. You made it look sophisticated at least.
    I’ll go visit you at Greg’s now.

  9. Hi Mardi, Your first two custards look fantastic. I have to say that even the one from the Mexican box doesn’t look too bad 🙂 I love flan/custard/creme caramel and need to give them a try soon. Will head over to check out your guest post.

  10. Oh, my gosh, I’m just salivating at your photos…even the old Mexican mix looks good!!! I think I need to make one of these very soon~

  11. Wow, Mardi! They all look delicious! I just made 10 dozens of macarons, so you know I have egg yolks ;-). I’ve been wanting to make flan, and you just inspired me to actually do it.

  12. OMG Mardi!!! Those look just amazing. My mum used to make custard wth caramel as well, and in her case, she used to steam it as we had no ovens in India then. You’ve just brought back loads of memories…

    And please please, when are you posting the recipe for the Portuguese tarts? Just so I can stop spending a fortune on them at the Italian Centre :-))

  13. Your custards look great and I think I would eat the boxed one as well, or at least your photo is making it look good 🙂
    Looking forward to the tarts…
    Hope you are having a great week


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