Friday, 14 August 2015

Crème de la Crème Caramel Custard Squared!

Creme de la Creme Caramel Custard Squared

Crème Caramel is my all time favourite dessert, but the recipe that inspired this went beyond. Thus the clever blogger called it Crème de la Crème Caramel, which grabbed my attention fast.  Determined to make it for a big party the next day, I tossed and turned instead of slept, unable to get that twinkling notion out of my noggin that it could be pushed further.  By morning I knew what had to be done. 

Crème Caramel is usually a vanilla egg custard surrounded in a clear caramel syrup, but since her recipe called for a tin of sweetened condensed milk, I realized the custard itself had to be caramelized, thus my recipe is Jessie D’Souza’s “squared”.  

(Sorry Jessie, I am unable to follow a recipe without fiddling with it somehow, although I did manage your syrup recipe without changes.) 

This is an intensely rich and sweet dessert that needs to be started in the morning, to be ready for the evening.  Don't worry, it needs to be set aside at several stages, so you won't be hovering over it all day. 
I sliced it into small squares to discourage gluttony.

A little goes a very long way, so I sliced mine into small squares, for a party of 52 people.  Yet I have a little left over to serve for a dinner party tonight!  Luckily not everyone chose a piece, since they were competing with my Nutella Banana Trifle, at least three cakes, many pies, squares, and several fruit crisps.  Not to mention a variety of fruit salads.  

(The party is also a pot luck, so I usually make two desserts and a vegetable and a giant vat of Baked Beans.  Recipe for beans coming soon.)

Simmer the condensed milk then start scraping.
If I had thought of this caramel variation the day before, I would have made the caramel syrup the easy way.  In a very large pot of boiling water, add as many 300 mm cans of sweetened condensed milk as will fit.  

Adding extra boiling water from the kettle from time to time, simmer the cans, fully submerged, for about six hours.  Turn off heat and do not touch.  You must keep the cans fully submerged the entire time, and you must leave them alone till the water in the pot is cool and all the cans are cool to the touch. Otherwise you will have a bad accident involving ambulances and a crew to scrub your kitchen ceiling clean.  Follow the rules when making this stuff!

You need only one can of this sweet elixir for this recipe, but you can store the rest of the cans in your pantry.  Just be sure to mark them as ‘caramelized’.  They will last this way for years.  Instant deliciousness in tin cans!

Of course I didn’t think of ‘squaring’ this recipe till the morning of the party, so I had to think fast. This method takes less time, but more effort. 
Scrape up the caramel bits and mix well.

Pour 1 300 mm can of sweetened condensed milk into a large flat bottomed pan.  Turn the heat on to medium, and bring to a simmer.  Using a silicone spatula, stir from time to time to scrape up the caramel.  It will get stringy and bumpy, but be brave.  It will caramelize in a lumpy manner in about ten minutes.

The Custard

300 mls condensed sweet milk (lumpy and quickly caramelized or boiled in a can)
1 ½ cups milk (2% at the lowest, preferably whole milk)
2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
1 teaspoon good vanilla
5 eggs
1 teaspoon freshly scraped orange rind or good quality orange marmalade

If you caramelize the condensed milk the day before, you can easily stir it into a big bowl with the milk.  Because I frantically created a lumpy ‘instant’ version, I added the milk directly to my molten lumps.  The milk hissed and the lumps crackled and congealed.  

Eventually the caramel dissolves into smaller bits than these.

Knowing I’d lost some moisture what with all the evaporation, I added the optional heavy cream.  (Heavy cream is always delicious in an egg custard.) I put a lid on it, and set it aside for two hours. Time will make the caramel lumps dissolve into the milk, along with the occasional stir from the spatula.  The rest of the custard preparation has to wait till the milk is cool and the lumps are largely dissolved.  This is a good time to get on to the syrup.

The Syrup

1 cup water
½ cup white sugar

Mix the water and sugar in a pan and place on medium heat.  From time to time, swirl the liquid around in the pan.  Don’t stir because the spoon or spatula can bring unwanted crystals into the liquid.  In about ten minutes, the mixture will begin to darken.  Once it smells amazing and it’s distinctively gold, remove from heat.  It will continue to cook a little, so don’t wait till it’s dark brown, or it will taste too bitter.  I like a little bitterness, but go cautiously here. 
The syrup will harden into a glaze.

Have a pair of oven mitts handy.  Pour into a single layer cake pan.  With the mitts, pick up the now searingly hot pan and gently tilt the pan till the syrup covers the bottom and sides of the pan.  Set aside to cool.  

At this point, your milk and caramel will still be too hot, so go find something else to do for the next hour and a half or so. 


Your milk and caramel mix will have some lumps still.  Break the largest ones up with a spoon and they’ll melt down to smaller lumps.  No matter, they will be lovely in the custard.
Turn the oven on to 350F.  In the middle of the oven, place a large oven proof pan and fill with some boiling water from the kettle, about half an inch deep.

Beat the eggs well.  Jessie’s recipe called for only 4, but I wanted a very dense custard that could be cut into small squares and I knew the extra egg would thicken it.  Add the vanilla.
I would have used fresh orange zest, but alas I had no oranges!  I grabbed some of my homemade orange marmalade, and sliced the larger pieces into thin strips and mixed it all in.

(The addition of the orange zest came from Jesus, an adult student in one of my courses in Calgary. He’d played soccer in Flushing, Queens, across the street from my old house!  An amazing coincidence and an amazing addition to the recipe!)

Anyway, whisk the ingredients together well, as it’s quite a thick mixture.  The syrup in the cake pan will have cooled and hardened by now.  Pour the custard mix into the cake pan. 

When the oven reaches 350F, carefully place the cake pan into the centre of the pan holding water.  If the water rises to the level of the custard, fine, otherwise carefully add more boiling water till it’s level with the custard.  No splashing or water will get in the custard!  So gently, slide the wrack into the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes.  The custard will be done when a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.  You may need another five minutes. 
This cooking method is a 'bain Marie".

Set the baked custard on a cooling wrack for an hour, then refrigerate for several hours till it's well chilled.

Just before serving, run a knife along the sides of the pan.  Place a pretty plate over top, and quickly invert.  Tap the pan a little if the custard doesn’t release.  Let as much syrup as possible drip down over the custard.  

I sliced this Crème de la Crème Caramel ² into small squares, not just to pun, but because I wanted it for many people, and especially because it’s insanely sweet and rich. 

Thanks Jessie for the inspiration!  You are a genius in the kitchen!  

Guests grabbed it faster than my camera could click!  See what the left over caramel bits did?  Very nice!

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