The origins of crème caramel are hotly disputed. The French and the Spanish claim to have invented it, but both use a custard technique so English, even the French call it ‘crème Anglaise‘. The critical sugar comes from Arabia.
Crème caramel got itself a bit of a bad rap in the 1970s because restauranteurs realised that it was ideal for making in advance (see notes), and so it appeared on nearly every brasserie menu in the whole of Europe. It also became the victim of packet mixes from the likes of Bird’s and Green’s.
Crème caramel has been exported all over the world, but for us, the version we hold dearest is the Filipino leche flan. We make it often.
- For the caramel:
- Enough caster sugar to cover the bottom of a sauté pan.
- For the crème:
- 2 eggs and 4 egg yolks
- 125g caster sugar
- 500ml milk
- 2 vanilla pods, stripped
Heat an oven to 190˚C. Place 4 ramekins in a deep roasting tin.
To make the caramel:
Gently heat the sugar in a sauté pan until it is dissolved and just brown. Pour to cover the bottom of 4 ramekins.
To make the custard:
Add the vanilla to the milk and boil briefly. Cool slightly.
Whisk the eggs and the sugar together, While whisking, slowly add the milk. Remove the vanilla pod and strain into a jug. Remove any froth with a spoon.
Divide the custard between the ramekins. Pour boiling water into the roasting tin until it reaches two thirds up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake in the oven for 40 mins until set (clean needle test). Allow to cool completely before releasing with a small palette knife and turning out onto a plate.
Crème caramel can be made a day ahead.