A beautifully balanced dessert with just the right amount of wobble
The thing about a really good crème caramel is that it has to be firm yet smooth, with just the right amount of wobble. It must be rich—but not too much so. Sweet—but not too much of that either. The balancing act is helped along by using some buttermilk in the dairy mix. Its natural slightly tangy sour edge tempers the sweetness beautifully.
A knob of butter
275ml whole milk
75ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
220g golden caster sugar
Grease 6 ramekins with the butter and then set them aside. Pour the milk, buttermilk and cream into a pan. Split the vanilla pod down its length, scrape out the seeds, then add the seeds and the pod to the pan. Bring to a simmer then turn off the heat and cover the pan. Set aside for at least the time it takes to do the next stage (or up to an hour) to allow the vanilla to infuse into the dairy.
Put 120g of the sugar into a pan. Add enough water to just about cover the sugar. Bring to a low boil then turn the heat down and let it simmer to become caramel. It will darken in colour and you want to catch it just as it turns nutty brown. While the caramel is still hot, divide it between the ramekins, tilting their bases so they are evenly covered. Set aside.
Break two whole eggs into a heatproof bowl. Add only the yolks of the other four eggs. Whisk together, then whisk in the remaining 100g of sugar. Lift the vanilla pod out of the dairy pan and—going slowly—gently whisk the dairy into the eggs.
Preheat the oven to 150C.
Strain the egg and dairy mix through a sieve into a jug. Divide the egg and dairy mix between the ramekins. Cover each one tightly with foil and sit them in a baking tray. Pour boiling water into the tray around the ramekins, enough to go about two-thirds up their height. Bake for 15 mins, remove the foil then bake for another 15 mins until the custard is just about set but still with a bit of a pleasing wobble. Lift them out of the tray to cool, then refrigerate for at least a couple of hours.
To serve, run a knife around the inside of each ramekin to loosen the custard, turn out onto a plate and serve.
Recipe: Angela Clutton