Friday, 8 April 2011

Salted caramel creams

Or, crème caramel..with a twist.

I love these little golden globes, they take me straight back to the puds of my childhood. Crème caramel is utterly delicious and ridiculously easy to make, but perhaps that's why I rarely do - it feels wrong that something so simple could be so good. But they are very, very good, and promiscuously easy to whip up in just half an hour.

With this dish all the 'cooking' time is in the waiting, as they hunker down in the fridge to set. So they can happily be made the day before and then served up for dinner the following night. A real lifesaver when you're a working girl (or guy) with friends coming for dinner at 8.

Makes 4

~for the caramel:

160g caster sugar
a pinch of salt
3 tablespoons warm water

~for the custard:

160ml double cream
150ml whole milk
3 large eggs
the seeds of one vanilla pod

1) Make the caramel by placing the sugar into a small heavy bottomed pan and allowing it to slowly melt over a low heat, without stirring. This should take about 5-8 minutes. When the sugar is clear, turn the heat up slightly and allow it to colour until it turns a deep golden brown. Then quickly add the water, standing well back as it will hiss and spit rather a lot. When it's died down, add the salt and give the pan a careful swirl to mix the whole lot together. If it has any lumps, place back over a low heat, swirling occasionally until it is clear and smooth. Divide three-quarters of the caramel between four individual pudding basins.

2) Add the milk, cream and vanilla to the pan with the remaining caramel and whisk over a gentle heat until the caramel has melted into the liquid. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl, then whisk in the hot milk, bit by bit. Carefully pour this mixture into the pudding basins.

3) Place the basins in a deep roasting tray with 2 inches of very hot water poured into the tray (not over the puddings), and then bake at 325f/160c/gas mark 3 for 16-20 minutes, or until the puddings are set but still have a fair bit of wobble in the centre.

4) Leave to chill for at least a few hours. To remove from the moulds, run a round nosed knife about 1cm deep around the edge of each pudding, to loosen it. Then dip each pudding mould into very hot water for 30 seconds to slightly melt the caramel inside. Invert over a dish, give it a tap and hopefully it will slide out with a satisfying slurp.

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