Crème caramel is a real dessert classic and I simply love it, not only because it is delicious as it is, but also because it is possible to create so many delicious variations. This one is made with roasted oriental spices and mace instead of the classic vanilla flavoring.
Although crème caramel seems simple enough to make at first, it is one of these desserts I have experimented with quite a lot and I must say that it has, at points, driven me close to despair. For once, making a nice caramel is a bit of a tricky business – often enough, my caramels turned out either too liquid or too solid, I quite simply burned them or they became lumpy. After watching what feels like hundreds of Youtube videos of French chefs and at one time quite simply locking myself into the kitchen and throwing packet after packet of sugar into my saucepans until I was happy with the outcome, I believe that I finally got the knack of it. Do not let that dishearten you – in the end, it is easy, you just got to know how it is done.
I also experimented a lot with the crème. Using full-fat milk and whole eggs as, I believe, traditional recipes say, I actually used to be happy with the outcome until Cyrus mentioned one day that he found that the crème caramel tasted eggy (meaning „too“ eggy). I could never really be happy again with my crème caramel after this as I started tasting the egg myself. So I am now using a mix of egg yolk and egg (1:1 ratio) and I have become happy with the outcome again. I am also now using a mix of full-fat milk and cream (again a 1:1 ratio) as I prefer the creamier taste of it. Naturally, you can change back to milk or whole eggs depending on your own preferences.
Finally, some not so unimportant practical advice in the end: Cleaning your sticky pot after making caramel might seem daunting, but it is fairly easy – just fill your pot with water and bring to the boil. Let boil until all of the caramel is dissolved.
Ingredients (for 4 servings):
- 150 to 175 grams of granulated sugar
- 250 ml of full-fat milk
- 250 ml of cream
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3 cloves
- ½ teaspoon coriander seed
- 1 teaspoon fennel seed
- 4 to 5 blades mace
- 2 large full eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- For decoration: two tablespoons of pomegranate seed
- Make a caramel from 100 to 125 grams of sugar as follows: Put the sugar in a saucepan (make sure the saucepan is very clean). Have 4 individual oven dishes ready, placed in a large flat oven dish filled with water (crème caramel is made in a water-bath). Add a bit of water (approx. a third of the weight of the sugar) to the saucepan until the sugar is completely soaked and there are no dry spots left. Then heat up over high temperature. The sugar will caramelize at 165 degrees Celsius (if you wish to use a sugar thermometer although I do not find it necessary). Take off the heat immediately when the sugar turns lightly brown / amber, and then immediately fill into the individual oven dishes, covering the bottom of the dishes. Let cool down and harden.
- Roast the spices, i.e. the cinnamon sticks, the cloves the coriander seed and the fennel seed, over medium heat for a few minutes. Keep tossing the spices to prevent burning, then take off the heat, put in a mortar and crush roughly.
- Mix the milk and the cream in a large saucepan. Add the remaining sugar, the crushed spices and the mace.
- Bring the mixture to the boil, then take off the heat and let infuse for 30 minutes (do not extend the infusion time (much) beyond this, or otherwise, the taste will become too strong and actually unpleasant).
- In the meantime, beat your eggs and egg yolk until well mixed. Make sure that you do not beat the eggs too much as the mixture should not become foamy.
- Strain the milk and cream mix through a sieve into a jug or saucepan, then mix well with the egg. Again make sure the mixture does not become foamy. If necessary, remove any foam from the top with a spoon.
- Pre-heat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius (fan oven). Fill the crème into the the oven dishes on top of the caramel, then place the dish with the water-bath containing the individual dishes in the oven and bake for approximately 45 minutes. Check that the crème caramel is not turning too dark or otherwise, turn down the temperature.
- Take out of the oven and let cool down. Give the crème caramel some time in the fridge to let the flavors infuse properly (best over night), and take out of the oven at least 30 minutes before serving.
- Decorate with a few mint leaves, fresh pomegranate seeds and/or roasted almond slices.