Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Recipe for "My Grandmother's Crème Caramel" from Manger. The recipe is simple to follow if you already know how to make caramel. I didn't, and I threw out my first two batches of caramel since I thought I was making it wrong. If you don't already know how to make caramel, then below is some additional information that helped me to make this recipe.
Making caramel may take about 25 minutes. She says to use caster or superfine sugar; I actually used just plain old regular sugar, and this will caramelize just fine. She says that to make the caramel you should "on low heat, melt the caster sugar, lemon juice and water in a saucepan. Let the mixture melt. It’s very important not to stir until the color starts to turn golden. At this point, shake the pan, until the color slowly turns to caramel golden brown." I threw away two batches of sugar since I thought I was doing this wrong since my caramel wasn't browning. What I didn't know, until William came home and showed me, is that you are first supposed to boil off the water. This surprised me and I thought it was wrong, but he showed me the section on "Making Caramel" in Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen", which says that the reason you boil off the water is that "water makes it possible to cook the sugar over high heat from the very beginning without the danger of burning it." The sugar will melt and begin to caramelize only after the water has boiled off.
She also mentions that it is important not to stir the sugar until it browns, but she doesn't mention why. The reason, according to Julia Child is that not turn helps the sugar to turn color evenly and will help wash any crystals off the side.
I didn't have any lemon zest in my caramel since I ran out of lemon zest after throwing the first two batches of caramel away. One change I would make to this recipe in the future is that I would like the custard to have a lot more vanilla flavor. I also added a teeny tiny pinch of salt to the flan to help bring out the flavors, but not enough to taste it.
I also strained the custard liquid through a fine meshed strainer before I put it into the custard cups, since boiling the milk gave it a little bit of a surface film and my eggs congealed slightly.
I found that the crème caramel was easier to unmold and more carmel sauce came out of the mold when I rinsed the bottom of the ramekin under hot water for 60 seconds (Mark Bittman's idea from "How to Cook Everything") before running a knife around the edges of the crème caramel.