The name says it all. They are little custards baked in a (dariole) mould with a helping of caramel. Personally, I much prefer these to creme brulees, which I find just a little too heavy. Apparently creme caramel used to be the food of the invalids- served for being easily digestible. Well, the trembling wobble of the creme caramel seems worth any spell in bed. Also, it feels that too much of the pleasure of a creme brulee lies in the cracking of its sugar surface. The shards of sugar do give a nice crunchy side to the brulee, but give me the silken texture of a creme caramel anytime.
For this recipe, I substituted a fifth of the milk for coconut cream and added a little salt, about 1g salt per 100ml milk. Coconut is like meat- it needs its salt, and what a difference it does make indeed! I did think of infusing the custard with lemon grass or kaffir lime leave or something of the sort, but decided against it. A previous batch flavoured with lemon didn't go down as well as I hoped. It didn't keep with the 'mellow' and if anything, drew out the egginess in the custard. Instead, I dropped a some cloves in with sugar while making the caramel. I like cloves and think they go quite well with the burnty taste of caramel. I also used sake cups as the mould. The mini-ness adds to their quivering apprehension. ^_^
For me, the best part about this pudding is the slight saltiness that you taste at the end. The salt is so important- it really gives a special edge! Also, thanks to the coconut, the custard did not taste overly eggy despite the absence of vanilla (I have a problem with the 'over-egg' sometimes). The caramel was lovely and fragrant too; the cloves come through a brief moment before the sugar kicks in. On hindsight however, I will probably make the caramel a bit darker next time, almost to there being some bitter (it is actually too light here). I am also contemplating using a salted caramel too, but that might be overkill. Due to the coconut cream, the fat content of the creme caramel is much higher than normal, making it of comparable richness to the brulee. As a result, it takes longer to cook and produces a softer and more delicate creme caramel, which still retains a modest springiness that the brulee lacks. It MUST be eaten at room temperature. When stored in the fridge, the creme caramel becomes distinctly firm
It feels appropriate that the first thing I made at LCB (fruit salad aside) should become my first post. I am not sure what copyright laws are with respect to blogs, and I have changed the recipe after all, albeit minutely. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, I shall refrain from posting any recipes until I check it out properly. If anybody knows anything about this, do say. Till then, there are plenty of good creme caramel recipes floating about on the web- you could easily make the same substitutions as me.
I can post some tips however:
- Shocking the caramel prevents it from further caramelization as you fill the moulds.
- Make sure the sugar in the custard has dissolved or you will get a tell-tale ring of sugar after baking.
- Try not to aerate the custard too much or you will get bubbles (though you can pop these by passing a blow torch over).
- Make sure both the caramel and custard are cool before filling the moulds with custard, but do not cool the caramel in the fridge or you will get a watery residue.
- Fill the bain marie with cold water, not hot, to prevent the caramel and custard from mixing.