Crème Caramel is a silky and delicious custard-based pudding, topped with a rich caramel sauce. It’s loved around the world! This version of the classic dessert uses brown sugar and adds a touch of lemon for a little rustic French flair.
Once the exclusive domain of expensive restaurants, Crème Caramel is a delicious custard-based dessert, covered in sweet, sticky caramel sauce. It is also known by other names such as flan, caramel pudding, egg pudding or caramel custard.
Although you might think this classic French pudding would be very difficult to execute at home, Crème Caramel recipes are a lot simpler than you might imagine.
I’d like to tell you a cute little story about where I first tried Crème Caramel, but honestly, it’s one of those desserts that I’ve known for as long as I can remember. This version is a little different from the “standard” in that it adds a hint of lemon to the flavor – something that I first experienced during a short stay in Montpellier.
What is Crème Caramel
Crème caramel is a custard-based dessert, created from eggs, milk, sugar and topped with a caramel sauce. Usually cooked in individual molds or ramekins (or larger single molds!), this delicious silky caramel pudding is served by turning the pudding upside down, and allowing the sauce in the bottom to pour over the dessert.
Once you have mastered this culinary delight, you will be serving this treat as often as you can. Your friends and family will love it, and suspect you of being a master chef.
What is Brown Sugar Creme Caramel
This version of Creme Caramel uses brown sugar for a richer, deeper caramel. It’s a somewhat rustic variation on the classic French dessert recipe that I’ve seen more in smaller towns I’ve visited around France.
Crème Caramel vs Crème Brulee
Although Crème Caramel and Crème Brulee share the same ingredients and similar methods of cooking, the difference lies in the ratio of eggs and milk. Crème Brulee is more of a creamy pudding, while Crème Caramel is more solid and gelatine-like. Both, of course, are a stunning way to end a meal.
One of the best things about a caramel custard is that the ingredients are so easily available. There’s a good chance you probably already have them in your pantry! The pudding section is a simple set custard which requires:
- Whole milk
- White sugar
- Lemon zest
The caramel sauce is made from:
- Dark brown sugar
- Lemon juice
How to make creme caramel
The dessert is made in two parts — first the caramel sauce and then the actual custard. The sauce is made first because it needs to cool and set in the bottom of the mold, before the pudding mixture can be poured over it.
- Prepare Sauce. Melt the brown sugar, lemon juice and water over a low heat without stirring. Pour the caramel sauce into the molds covering the entire bottom surface.
- Prepare Custard. Heat milk in a saucepan with sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and salt. Add whisked eggs to the milk.
- Combine. Pour the custard mixture into the caramel lined molds.
- Cook. Place molds in a bain-marie (a water bath created by setting your molds/ramekins in a larger oven-safe dish filled with hot water) and bake for 55-60 minutes.
- Serve. Allow the Crème Caramel to cool completely before putting in the fridge for 1-3 hours. Loosen the sides with a knife, cover the mold with a serving plate and tip upside down.
This Brown Sugar Crème Caramel is meant to be creamy and smooth, with a soft silky texture. The blandness of the vanilla custard should contrast with the sweetness of a rich golden caramel sauce (that doesn’t taste burnt).
To achieve this wonderful balance, make sure to pay attention to the following instructions:
15 Seconds from Disaster. Don’t overcook the caramel sauce. The difference between perfect and burnt is around fifteen seconds.
Don’t Be a Stirrer. Don’t stir the caramel sauce no matter how tempted you are. Swirl the liquid in the bottom of the saucepan instead. Use your smallest saucepan on your biggest ring to prevent the caramel sauce hardening in the pan as it cools.
Stay Safe. Take extra care around melted sugar which becomes extremely hot, and will inflict significant burns.
Stay Warm. Be sure to warm the pudding molds or ramekins in the oven before pouring in the caramel sauce. This will make it easier to spread the caramel liquid and avoid crystallisation. This step is generally more important if you live in a particularly cold climate (or you know, a particularly cold kitchen!).
Eggs & Milk. For the custard, use eggs at room temperature and whole/full cream milk for the best results.
Creamy Custard. Beat the eggs until the whites disappear but stop before they become frothy. Try to avoid bubbles in the mixture as much as possible to ensure your custard sets with a smooth, creamy texture.
Don’t Splash. Use hot (not boiling) water in your bain-marie to maintain an ideal cooking time. Take care when placing your mold in your supporting tray, as accidentally splashing water in your custard mixture will ruin your results.
Wobbly Works. Take your cooked Crème Caramel out of the oven when it/they appear slightly undercooked (still wobbly) as the dessert will continue to cook as it cools down. If you overcook this delicacy, it will taste eggy and rubbery. Yuck.
Chill Out. Do not serve your Crème Caramel dessert until its been thoroughly chilled. Although it will take patience to resist that sweet, sweet goodness, trying to serve your caramel pudding too soon will see it fall apart.
As the original custard is plain vanilla, it can be easily transformed by adding different flavours. You can add chocolate or other ingredients to the custard to get a unique taste. Popular flavours include mango, lemon, pistachio, white chocolate, espresso, orange, guava, cream cheese, passion fruit, and tamarind.
Crème Caramel will store up to 4-days in the refrigerator, making this the perfect dessert to make in advance.
More classic dessert recipes
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A sturdy, heavy bottomed saucepan will ensure your caramel sauce is perfect every time.
A candy thermometer will assist you in knowing when your caramel sauce is suitably browned without burning.
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And that’s it, bestie. That’s pretty much everything you need to know to make Crème Caramel. Have you tried this variation with lemon before? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!Print