Easy to make and sometimes overlooked in the world of modern foams and more elaborated desserts, Crème Caramel or Flan is still a favorite of mine. Its magic combination of sweet, rich custard and bitter caramel is one of those marriages meant to last.
And without the caramelized sugar, the custard is a great base for turning leftovers such as bread or baked goods like Panettone or Croissants into wonderful moist puddings.
As usual there are many different recipes, but here's one I personally like:
The trickiest part is making the caramel, because in order to soften it a bit and prevent it from becoming solid after it cools off, I like to add a small amount of water to it while it is still extremely hot, and this makes the hot caramel react and splash around dangerously.
But if you survive that part the rest is pretty easy.
To make this process a little safer, once the caramelized sugar has reached the desired rich amber color, dip the bottom of the hot pan in a bowl full of water. This will stop the cooking and partially lower the temperature making the action of adding some water to it a bit less extreme. After this, pour the hot caramel into each mold and allow to cool.
In a sauce pan warm up 1qt of whole milk with the yellow part of a lemon peel and a small piece of cinnamon stick. While the milk is warming up stir 4 egg yolks and 4 whole eggs with 7oz of sugar and a small pinch of salt. There is no need to whisk hard as you don't want to mount them, just combine them. You want to avoid extra foam forming after you combine the milk.
When the milk is hot, but before it starts simmering, pour it slowly into the egg mixture, stirring to avoid the eggs from coagulating.
If desired add a splash of Brandy, Rum or Grand Marnier, to provide a little extra aroma. Or if you prefer you can put a piece of vanilla bean in the milk.
Strain through a fine sieve and pour inside the molds. Place the molds inside a oven safe dish and add about 1 or two inches of hot water. Bake at 325F for about 30-40 minutes or until the custard will feel slightly firm to the touch.
Allow to cool and refrigerate. To serve run a paring knife along the side of the mold to allow some air inside and reverse the creme caramel in a small plate, pouring all the extra caramel on top of it.
It's ok to eat more than one if like me you just can't stop at the first.