Western Dessert – Caramel Custard

Western Dessert - 001 Caramel custard edited re-sized

I’ve not met anyone who dislikes custards and the addition of golden, sticky, aromatic caramel syrup in a chilled dessert definitely hits that spot any time and any where. However, it is making this caramel syrup that seems to intimidate many cooks. I hope that my photos and detailed explanations given below will assure you success in your attempt to make this scrumptious, ever appealing sweet end to your meal. You learn as you experiment with ingredients which are simple, easily obtainable and very inexpensive.

I feel less guilty eating this dessert in comparison with crème brûlée and pot de crème, as caramel custard is fewer in calories and much lighter in fat.

Wouldn’t this qualify as a gluten free dessert that doesn’t require special ingredients which you can bring for pot luck?

Some Comments about the Ingredients

  • Eggs Use fresh 60 gm eggs
  • Milk Whole milk should be used. Do not substitute with low fat or skim milk. You can use UHT whole milk or fresh milk.

These 2 ingredients help the custard hold its shape and provides that rich smooth texture!

  • Sugar Normal fine granulated sugar is suitable.

There are 4 stages to making this dessert. The First stage is cooking the caramel and the Second stage is mixing the custard ingredients.

Stage 1. Cooking the Caramel

Into a 6 cup oven-proof mould, pour water and sugar (a corning ware casserole is most suitable). Place this mould over medium heat and cook this syrup WITHOUT stirring. You will notice lots of bubbles and streaks of colour changes from transparent to light gold in the mixture. Protect your hands with oven gloves, hold the mould and swirl it around to even out the colour.

Many cooks are afraid to burn their caramel. Even when the golden colour reaches that stage as shown in the photo below, you can still heat it a little longer to extract the full flavour.

Once the caramel reaches the darker brown in the photo above, switch off the heat! As caramel cools, it will get even darker since residual heat in the mould and the syrup continues cooking caramel. Immediately, rotate mould so that the caramel coats the base and a bit of the sides of the mould.

HINT: If the caramel is any darker than the colour shown, that will mean burnt caramel. What do you do then? (1) Let the current burnt caramel cool, add water and boil mould to clean it out. (2) Start all over. It was only water and sugar – not expensive ingredients. You have to experiment to learn.

Stage 2. Preparing the Custard

STEP 1. Separate the egg whites from the yolks. There are several methods to do this. This is my favourite method, using one half of the egg shell with its sharp edges to cut through the fresh, rather gelatinous egg white to pick up the yolk.  It is more prudent to use a small bowl to contain each cracked egg before separating. Remember to have a properly marked container to keep the egg whites.

HINT: Set your oven to 150C  (300F) and start heating your oven and boil 1.5 litres of water ( for bain marie method of baking custard).

STEP 2. Beat the whole eggs, egg yolks and caster sugar well but try to create as little bubbles as possible. Microwave the milk at 700Watts for 2 mins. Slowly pour heated milk into the beaten eggs, stirring as you mix to ensure milk does not cook the eggs. Add in vanilla essence and strain mixture. Gradually pour the strained mixture into the prepared mould.

Stage 3. Baking the Caramel Custard

STEP 3. Set filled casserole into a large deep baking pan. Scoop out all the bubbles which are floating on the mixture.

STEP 4. Carefully pour the boiling water into the baking pan till water comes up to half the depth of the mould.

STEP 5.  Place the baking tin and filled mould into the oven. Bake for 35 to 45 mins until a knife which is inserted into the centre of custard comes out clean. Remove from oven and baking pan. Cool. Then, cover and chill caramel custard in the refrigerator at least overnight. If you plan ahead, this dessert keeps 2 days in the fridge so you already have your dessert for your guests.

Stage 4. Serving Caramel Custard

If the caramel custard has been well chilled, run a knife around the entire edge of the custard, place a deep serving plate over the mould. Hold both serving plate and mould very tightly and gently turn mould over so that caramel custard slips onto serving plate. I like to decorate mine with berries and mint sprigs but it is not necessary.

RECIPE

Source: Charmaine Solomon’s “The Complete Asian Cookbook”

Serves: 6 to 8 decent sized portions ( I served 10 small portions last night, see photo above)

Ingredients:

For caramel

  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 cup water

For custard

  • 3 large eggs (60 gms)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 Cup caster sugar
  • 2.5 Cups hot milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Method:

Stage 1. Cooking Caramel

1. Into a 6 cup oven proof mould, pour water and sugar (a corning ware casserole is most suitable). Place this mould over medium heat and cook this syrup WITHOUT stirring. You will notice lots of bubbles and streaks of colour changes from transparent to light gold in the mixture. Protect your hands with oven gloves, hold the mould and swirl it around to even out the colour.

2. Once the caramel reaches a darker golden brown, switch off the heat! As caramel cools, it will get even darker since residual heat in the mould and the syrup continues cooking caramel. Immediately rotate mould so that the caramel coats the base and a bit of the sides of the mould.

Stage 2. Making the custard

1. Separate the egg whites from the yolks. It is more prudent to use a small bowl to contain each cracked egg before separating. Remember to have a properly marked container to keep the egg whites.

HINT: Set your oven to 150C  (300F) and start heating your oven and boil 1.5 litres of water ( for bain marie method of baking custard).

2. Beat the whole eggs, egg yolks and caster sugar well but try to create as little bubbles as possible. Microwave the milk at 700 Watts for 2 mins. Slowly pour heated milk into the beaten eggs, stirring as you mix to ensure milk does not cook the eggs. Add in vanilla essence and strain mixture. Gradually pour the strained mixture into the prepared mould.

Stage 3. Baking the Caramel Custard 

1. Set filled casserole into a large deep baking pan. Scoop out all the bubbles which are floating on the mixture.

2. Carefully pour the boiling water into the baking pan till water comes up to half the depth of the mould.

3.  Place the baking tin and filled mould into the oven. Bake for 35 to 45 mins until a knife which is inserted into the centre of custard comes out clean. Remove from oven and baking pan. Cool. Then, cover and chill caramel custard in the refrigerator overnight.

Stage 4. Serving the Caramel custard

If the caramel custard has been well chilled, run a knife around the entire edge of the custard, place a deep serving plate over the mould. Hold both serving plate and mould very tightly and gently turn mould over so that caramel custard slips onto serving plate.

I like to decorate mine with berries and mint sprigs but it is not necessary.

Serving Suggestions

So far, recipes of S. E. Asian cuisines have been the main subject of my posts as these are more familiar with helpers. This makes their training much easier. Posts of simpler and currently popular Western recipes have also been included for variety.

Caramel custard’s appeal is international. Japanese favour it and so do the Filipinos who call it Leche Flan and it is a part of their Spanish heritage.

Below is a list of western recipe posts. You might want to use one or more of them when y0u plan a complete meal.

1. Minestrone Soup. Click here.

2. Cream of Mushroom Soup. Click here.

3. Home-made Gravlax. Click here

4. Baked Red Snapper. Click here.

5. Savoury Crepes. Click here

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