Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Crème Caramel to slow down November

Are you ready for Christmas music yet?

I'm not. Not even close.

I went shopping this weekend, not really to shop, but mostly to watch all the crazy people going shopping. It's a  fun way to spend a Sunday. You see plenty of old men sitting on benches with their heads bent way back and their mouths wide open, jerking forward to try to hold their head up as they fall asleep. I'd bet 26 sticks of butter that they're waiting for their wives to finish trying on 7 pairs of boots only to walk out of the store empty handed. Priceless.

The stores were already playing Christmas music and the employees were already dressed like elves. Seriously? Nuts.

Usually by this time of year I'm with that crowd. Oh yeah. I'm the one singing Christmas carols the day after Halloween and I usually get flack for it. But not this year....

To tell you the truth....this scares the crap out of me! I woke up this morning and thought... "holy frig - I grew up!" I'm not ready to grow up yet. I thought I at least had a few years left so clearly I wasn't prepared for this. I'm hoping this is just a faze and surely it will pass.

Maybe I'm just learning to appreciate time more. I don't want to rush things. November has already gone by way too fast! Is it really the 15th today? Holy crap!

Sometimes it's good for us all to just settle down. Take in the moment and don't let it get away from you. Christmas will come, but for now can we just enjoy November?

Making Crème Caramel is a perfect way to slow down because when you eat it, time will stand still. Heaven.

It's really quite easy to prepare. You follow the same technique as making a custard: heat cream/milk in a pot and gradually add it to a mixture of eggs and sugar. This slow addition of hot milk to cool eggs is called “tempering” as it brings the egg temperature up slowly to prevent curdling the proteins when they hit the intense heat of the oven.

The layer of amber caramel that tops these guys off is totally luxurious and chic - whoever thought of this should win a prize. The caramel is poured into the bottom of your ramekins and will cook into the custard as it bakes so that when you turn out your precious custards onto a plate, the golden layer of caramel is presented up front and in your face.

The key is to let the caramel harden completely before pouring in the custard or else it will bleed through and create little pot holes at the surface. Most importantly, use a water bath to provide even heat and a moist environment so that these babies cook nice and gently, leaving you with the silkiest custard ever.

Custard + Caramel is a combination that could never disappoint. Makes this today, cuddle up in your snuggie and feel your Tuesday stretch as far as it can go.

Classic Crème Caramel
Makes 6 servings

For the caramel:
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp water
¼ tsp distilled white vinegar

For the custard:
½ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 2/3 cup 2% milk
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325°F.

To make the caramel, pour sugar in an even layer in the bottom of a small 1-quart saucepan and drizzle water and vinegar around the inner edges of the pan. Place pot over medium-high heat and cook until sugar is dissolved and mixture changes into clear syrup. Decrease heat to medium and continue to cook until mixture turns golden amber, swirling pan periodically for even colouring. Do not stir the mixture or the sugar will crystallize.

Immediately and carefully pour liquid caramel into the bottom of six 3-inch round (6 oz) ramekins, dividing it equally and swirling ramekins to coat the bottoms evenly; set aside until the caramel has cooled and hardened.

In a small saucepan, bring milk and cream to a boil over medium-low heat, watching it carefully.

To make the custard, in a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, yolk and sugar until well blended. Add ¼ cup of hot milk and whisk until smooth. Gradually add another ¼ cup while whisking constantly. Switch to a rubber spatula and add remaining milk while stirring constantly. Stir in vanilla extract. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and into a large measuring cup or clean bowl and pour or ladle it into caramel-lined ramekins.

Transfer ramekins to a deep glass baking dish. Add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the edges are set and the center is just slightly wobbly, about 25 to 30 minutes. A knife should come out clean when inserted in the centers.

Transfer baking dish to a wire rack and let ramekins cool completely in the water. Once cooled, refrigerate until completely set, about 2 hours. To serve, run a sharp knife around the inside edges of the crème caramel. Place a plate serving-side-down over the ramekin and invert so that the bottom of the ramekin is facing up. Gently remove the ramekin, giggling it slightly if necessary to let the custard come loose. 
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