Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Burnt Caramel Custards

"I have a lot of faith.  But I am also afraid a lot, and have no certainty about anything. 
Certainty is missing the point entirely.  Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns."  ~ Anne Lamott

I love that last bit...letting it be there until some light returns.  How hard is it though, to just let it be.  Sometimes we push and pull for answers, getting nowhere in return.  If you too are finding yourself in a place where you need to just let it be, rest assured that the light (and Spring!) will find us soon enough.  Diehard optimist, am I.  

In return for such seriousness I give you a really, really good recipe for custard.  And not just any custard.  The custard of your dreams, or at least my dreams.  Luxurious, comes to mind.  Caloric (but who cares), does too.  This is a great make-ahead dish, if you are throwing a party and need a dessert to impress your friends.  You have to make a small batch of caramel, so they're impressed already.  

You have to bake these babies in a water bath.  Doubly impressive.  So to recap, you have to make caramel, and bake these with scalding water.  Be careful, okay?  Sugar and steam burns aren't fun.  I've had both, I know!  They do take quite some time to bake - after the one hour mark I was testing them every ten minutes - it could take up to 80 minutes.  What you are looking for is a set custard, but with still some jiggle in the middle.  Oh, Lord, did I just write that?  Seems so.  The hardest part is letting them chill until you can take a spoon and slowly tuck into your little dish.  Crème brûlée comes to mind, but without the bother of a blowtorch.  Some days we have enough going on, we don't need to play with fire, too. 


Burnt Caramel Custards

4 cups heavy cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup plus 4 tbsp cane sugar, divided
6 large egg yolks, at room temp
pinch of sea salt
whipped cream, for garnish (optional)
flaky salt for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 300*F.  Place cream, vanilla in saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.  
Bring 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp of sugar plus 2 tbsp of water to boil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat, swirling to dissolve sugar.  Boil, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down the sides with a wet pastry brush, until the mixture is deep amber.  Takes about 4 minutes.  Be sure to watch it carefully, you don't want to really burn it!  
Slowly add hot cream to hot caramel - it's going to bubble like crazy.  Put it back on medium heat and stir occasionally until smooth - about 2 minutes.  
Whisk the egg yolks with salt and 2 tbsp sugar in a large bowl.  Slowly pour in the caramel cream, whisking constantly.  Divide the custard among eight six-ounce (or thereabouts) ovenproof ramekins or cups.  Place in a large, shallow roasting dish and pour in cold water until it reaches halfway up the sides of ramekins.  Bake until custard is set, but still jiggly in middle.  This can take anywhere from 60-80 minutes, depending on the size of ramekin.  You just want the middle to still be jiggly.  Remove ramekins from baking dish and set on wire rack to cool.  Chill the custards for at least 3 hours before serving.  Garnish with whipped cream and flaky salt, if you wish.


  1. These look so delicious. I love burnt caramel! I'd eat them for breakfast, too ;)

  2. I love custard, thanks for reminding me to make some! Also like the idea of whipped cream on top. :)

  3. Mimi - Thank you so much!
    Jennifer - Oh girl, so good for breakfast!
    Agi - Custard is one of my favourites, and this one is pretty mind-blowing :)


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