Honey Crème Caramel
With the dark, cold days right now, it's a nice time of year to have something special for dessert. I love custard, and crème caramel is one of the simplest custards to make. It also keeps well and is plated in single servings so you can enjoy it for a couple of days. Honey enhances the flavor of the cream and eggs in this recipe.
The hardest part of crème caramel is cooking the sugar for the caramel sauce. The most important thing to remember is to use a heavy bottom pan, cast iron works best, and keep an eye on it. Caramel is the most flavorful when it's very dark and even begins to smoke a bit but it must be taken off the stove before it reaches that point because it will continue to cook even when it's off the heat.
My favorite crème caramel recipe is from Epicurious, but I have tweaked it to use some honey instead of only maple syrup. Honey can overpower the subtle custard flavor so I use half maple and half honey to ensure that the eggs and cream are the central flavors. You can see the original recipe here.
For the Caramel
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup Björn's Raw Traditional Honey
1/4 cup real maple syrup or you can also use white sugar if you don't have maple on-hand
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks, separated from the white
1 1/2 cups whipping cream (table cream will work if you cannot find whipping cream)
1/2 cup whole milk (2% will work and you can even do 1/3 cup 2% milk and then fill the measuring cup up with the cream to get to the 1/2 cup line)
Preheat oven to 300°F. Put your ramekins out on the counter so they are ready to have the hot caramel poured into them and grease them very lightly with real butter.
To make the caramel:
Mix the sugar and water in your heavy bottom saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar melts and the liquid becomes clear. Once the liquid is clear, you can turn the heat up to medium-high or even high depending on your stove. Induction tends to cook hotter than gas or electricity. You want the liquid to boil vigorously and you should see lots of steam coming off the mixture as the water cooks off. In Colorado, you will need to use high heat as our altitude makes water boil at a lower temperature. I turn my stove up to the highest setting at this point.
Boil the sugar syrup until it begins to turn brown. You can check the color by dipping a spoon in and dropping a bit of the caramel on a white plate. Once you begin to see a brown color in the liquid, it's time to watch it closely. I pull it off right as I begin to smell that caramel aroma. You can always put it back on the heat if you want a bit more color. I recommend taking it off earlier than you'd think the first couple of times you make it just to be sure you don't burn it.
Immediately pour caramel into the prepared ramekins. You can turn the dishes a bit to fully coat the bottom if needed. Set the ramekins aside.
Separate your egg yolks into a medium bowl and add the whole egg. Whisk to blend.
In a heavy saucepan, mix your cream and milk and bring it to a gentle boil. Use a dry measuring spoon or a serving spoon to gently whisk a little of the hot milk into the egg mixture. Repeat a few times until the mixture begins to lighten in color. Then you can add larger amounts of the milk mixture until it's completely combined.
Divide custard among the ramekins. Set them into a large glass brownie pan (13" x 9" x 2"). Then fill the pan with hot water until it's halfway up the sides of the ramekins. This a French technique to gently cook custards called a bain-marie.
Carefully life the pan into the oven and bake custards until set in the center, about 55-60 minutes. Once baked remove them from the water carefully and chill uncovered until cold, at least 5 hours. Once the custard is completely chilled you can cover it with plastic wrap or foil.
To serve, run a thin knife around the dish sides to loosen custards. Invert onto a plate. Spoon out any extra caramel sauce. There is almost always a bit of hard caramel that doesn't liquefy in the bottom of your ramekin. If you figure out how to remedy that situation, let me know!