This week I finally made Creme Caramel for the very first time and I’m so proud of myself. While this might be a seemingly simple dessert to make, I had baggage. My Mum was the Creme Caramel Queen and I had towering high heels to fill. Of course, this fueled my usual fears of “disaster” and the cream sat in the fridge for a week before I could muster the courage to get started.
(Note to self: add “fear of making mistakes” to previous post!)
When I was was a child, my mother used to make Creme Caramel for dinner parties. I remember peering up as she carefully tipped the Creme Caramel with its scrumptious golden crown onto the plate. It was her piece de resistance!
Then, being a fiendish sugar-holic, I’d nab the dish to salvage the crunchy toffee off the bottom with a knife. The next morning, my brother and I would find our left over slithers in the fridge. The scarcity just added to its glory. With it’s caramalised, sugary sweetness, it was heavenly divine.
My mother’s Creme Caramel was an absolute treat!
Given how much I love cooking and how much I loved that precious Creme Caramel, you’re probably surprised that I’ve never made it before…especially as I stubbornly refuse to eat those ghastly supermarket frauds which could never measure up.
I’m sure I did my usual thing of turning a mole hill into a mountain and besdies, watching Mum make it as a child, there seemed to be some kind of alchemy involved. Of course, I forgot that these were the impressions of a 10 year old and I’ve now grown up. I can cook.
What spurred me into action was that my kids like the supermarket version and had no idea how to make a real Creme Caramel. Indeed, when I explained how it was made, it was just like telling a kid that milk comes from real cows and wasn’t made in a carton! I was flabbergasted and decided that making Creme Caramel at home was about to become an important part of their education. After all, how could I deprive them of the joy of chiselling the toffee stright off the bottom of the dish? That’d be absolutely unforgivable!
So, I dug a recipe out of the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook, which I believe is Mum’s recipe, and it was nowhere near as hard to make as I’d thought. Just toffee and custard baked in a water bath.
Nothing to fear.
That was until I had to convert pints into millilitres, which is never an easy translation.
Then, disaster struck!
Perhaps, I was worrying too much about the measurements or was it my daughter’s chatter or perhaps it was just me being me, which completely mucked it up. Instead of putting the milk and cream in the saucepan, I’d thrown them in with the eggs. Now, my precious first attempt had just become dog food.
Unperturbed, I read the recipe a few more times and without further dramas, it went into the oven.
This is when further doubts started to surface, just like air bubbles in the gurgling toffee.
How long should it stay in the oven? I couldn’t find small ramekins and so I was making mine in a larger dish, just like Mum. However, the recipe didn’t offer a suitable cooking time, leaving it up to guesswork or Google. This was when I dug up an article from The Guardian about How to Make the Perfect Creme Caramel. It was a bit late now that it was already in the oven but it did mention that my Monster Creme Caramel needed to cook for 1.5 hours. It also warned not to trust the timing and to “make sure it really does have a “slight tremble” in the centre, rather than a definite wobble, before you take it out of the oven.”
I wondered how much wobble was ideal. I assumed more of a jogging along the beach kind of wobble than a lot of bounce or horror of horrors… sag!
Of course, I couldn’t over-cook it either and on this front it mentioned “rubber”. Ouch!
I had no idea that Creme Caramel could bounce. Indeed, I’d never seen Mum’s Creme Caramel bounce around the tennis court or being chased by the dog. Mine wasn’t about to start bouncing either. As I said, just a “wobble”.
I was going to have to watch that oven like a hawk and somehow pick exactly the right wobble without opening the door a thousand times and killing it altogether!
I know I’d heard of people catching cyberchondria by looking up medical conditions online but I didn’t realise it affected your cooking as well. In the past your dish either rose or it flopped but now there’s so much advice, that I’ve opened a veritable Pandora’s Box of worries. Now, I was starting to feel like that parent with a newborn feeling completely confused, overwhelmed and wanting to head for the hills.
How could something so simple suddenly become so fraught with danger?
I didn’t know but but my nightmeres weren’t over yet!
I still had to extricate our precious Creme Caramel from the dish.
Of course, I don’t remember Mum’s Creme Caramel ever getting stuck but she was the Creme Caramel Queen. I was just the poor apprentice. She had Creme Caramel running through her veins… the same way she knew how to make the perfect, inimitable sponge.
This isn’t something you simply inherit in your DNA. It’s a gift.
So there I was. After hoping it had the right amount of wobble, I took my first ever, precious Creme Caramel out of the oven and transferred it to the fridge for a good night’s sleep.
Since I’m not one of those TV Cooking demonstrators who always have the next stage “prepared earlier”, we’ll fast forward 24 hours. I’ve now taken the Creme Caramel out of the fridge and with the two kids pestering me to dish it up, the big moment had finally arrived.
Would I, the Creme Caramel Apprentice, be able to get this thing out without it blowing up?
I was about to find out.
The recipe said to cut around the edge with a thin knife.
This I did.
I carefully turned the dish upside down on the plate but didn’t push the matter too aggressively on my first attempt in case disaster struck.
I held my breath and all but said a prayer as I turned the dish upside down, sacrificing my Creme Caramel to the Lord of the Great White Plate.
Humph. Nothing happened. It was stuck.
A huge anti-climax, my heart started to race a little faster. Indeed, the accelerator was flat to the floor. How was I going to get this thing out without destroying it completely?
“Think, Rowena. Think”.
It still wasn’t time to go in with the jack hammer yet but tougher measures were required. No more kid gloves but just enough force to give it a shove. Well, more of a nudge….this time with a broad knife. It wasn’t quite the thin knife the recipe recommended but it could not so subtlely get underneath the custard and lever it out. This is where art was meeting science and where salvaging cakes out of stubborn cake tins finally paid off. I knew exactly how to extract this beast and by jove, I did it!
Our Creme Caramel had landed!
Of course, I was expecting animated “oohs and aahs” from the family…especially as the kids had being eyeing off that caramel sauce like would-be thieves.
I was in for a very rude shock.
Indeed, I’d less complaints when I last dished broccoli for dinner.
I even heard a “yuck”.
Neither of the kids liked the Creme Caramel and wouldn’t eat it. Indeed, they even had the gall to say they preferred the supermarket version.
Our daughter even said it was “like cheese”.
That was like slapping me in straight in the face with a fly swat and boy did it hurt!
How dare they! Yet, I wasn’t surprised. They’re both incredibly fussy and usually drink Soy milk and don’t like dairy. My son is also lactose intolerant so it was probably a good thing.
So, unlike my childhood where I was lucky to procure my precious little slither, Geoff and I will now be feasting on Creme Caramel for a few days.
Things could be worse…
Meanwhile just to top off her total lack of respect for my magnificent Creme Caramel, Miss did this on photoshop: Attack of the Killer Slime Monster.
Have you ever tried to make Creme Caramel?