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Caramel Egg Custard

Here is author Jeanne Kelley’s version of the classic crème caramel of the French kitchen. It is not over-the-top rich like crème brûlée, but it still makes an impact with its silky texture and the flavors of caramel, vanilla and fresh eggs. To make individual portions, divide the caramel and egg custard evenly between 8 small ramekins; the baking time might be reduced slightly, so start checking the custards after 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 5 whole eggs
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stir together 1 cup of the sugar and the water until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high, bring to a boil and boil without stirring, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar melts and turns a deep nut brown, about 6 minutes. If necessary, brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystals from forming. When the caramel is ready, immediately pour it into an 8-inch soufflé dish and swirl the dish carefully to coat the bottom and about 2 inches up the sides with the caramel. Set the dish aside and reserve the pan (do not wash).

In a bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and the salt until well blended. Add the milk and vanilla bean to the pan used for the caramel, place over medium heat and bring almost to a simmer, whisking occasionally. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk the hot milk into the egg mixture. Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into the caramel-lined soufflé dish.

Place the dish in a baking pan, fill the pan with hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the soufflé dish and cover the soufflé dish with aluminum foil. Bake until the custard is set in the center and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and remove the soufflé dish from the water. Let the custard cool completely. (The cooled custard can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.) To serve, run a small, sharp knife around the inside edge of the dish to release the custard. Invert a rimmed platter on top of the soufflé dish and invert the dish and platter together. Lift off the soufflé dish and serve immediately. Serves 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Garden Cookbook, by Jeanne Kelley (Weldon Owen, 2013).