Monday, March 11, 2013

Crème Caramel – Maybe the Best Dessert Ever

It would be impossible to pick a “World’s Greatest Dessert,” but if you’re going to have that conversation, the classic crème caramel has to be part of the discussion. When you combine stunning looks with amazing taste and texture, this classic is hard to beat. The way the almost-burnt caramel layer gets fused on, becomes one with, the creamy custard is nothing short of magic. Crème brulee gets more press, but people that know, know.

If my plea for you to use crème fraiche goes unheeded, yes, heavy cream will work here, but the subtle tang and nuttiness you get from the fermented cream takes this to places the regular stuff just can’t. It also seems to add some extra smoothness to the texture, and make no mistake; the mouthfeel with this classic is just as critical as the flavor.

I’ve not tested my theory, but other substitutions like buttermilk and sour cream should also work similarly. If you don’t have Grand Marnier, just using vanilla is fine, but the vague scent of orange rind that it provides the custard is really nice.

You also have the freedom to change the size and shape of your ramekins. Whether you use fewer, larger ones, or a larger number of smaller-sized ramekins, the procedure will work exactly the same. Of course, you’ll have to adjust the cooking times, but the “just set” doneness test will be your ultimate guide. I hope you give these classic treats a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 (6.5 oz) Crème Caramels:
*Scant 1/2 cup sugar, melted over medium heat until a dark caramel forms (just a tad less than a full half cup)
1 large egg
3 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp Grand Marnier
1/2 cup milk
Bake at 325 F for about 45-50 minutes, or until just set.

View the complete recipe

72 comments:

Monica said...

This is Mexican Flan, my favorite dessert, thought your GM Souffles were the ultimate but this will be on the list for dessert this week

C&J said...

Hey Chef John! Do you have any substitution ideas for us lactose intolerant people? I would love to make this dessert!

Chef John said...

Sorry, I've never used any lactose-free products!

The Procrastinator said...

Could I substitute Turbinado sugar for regular sugar?

Elenista Lam said...

Hello! I was wondering if the "Grand Marnier" is necessary.. because im only 15, can't get it haha!

S/V Blondie-Dog said...

Dang this looks delicious and it does indeed bring back fond memories of the flan that I'd often indulge in after a full meal along Calle Ocho in Little Havana.

And of course we all know that Little Havana happens to be in Miami.

But what folks may not know is that the reason why Cubans love Miami is because it is so close to the United States.

I'll be sure to give this a try!

Thanks!

Unknown said...

@Elenista: He said you can use Vanilla instead if you dont have Grand Marnier.

Judy said...

ffflllaaaannnnnnn!!! Flan is truly, truly, TRULY one of my very favorite treats!! And, I had no idea it could be done so easily and with such a minimum of ingredients! You just totally made may day and also are forcing me to go buy ramekins! ;) I usually indulge in a flan anytime I pass by a certain Mexican place that sells a decent version--and now I can make em at home (my waistline will sooooo suffer lol) I must try this over and over again! <3 <3 <3 TY Chef!!!!!!! :)

Alyssa Johnson said...

the video cut off for me at 3:07. I have no idea why it is so short. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!! This is so suspenseful!

Jude said...

Why dry caramel technique vs using a sugar water solution cooked down to caramel state? Just time saved?

Chef John said...

Seems to get a deeper color and flavor that way for whatever reason. Maybe some gets burnt and mixing into the lighter parts.

Jake Alexander said...

Does this just taste like flan? Or how is it different

Kristijan Kowalsky said...

@ C&J
Try using soy cream, it should work.


Roberto said...

For extra sex appeal, try buttering the OUTSIDE of a small SS bowl just larger than your flan. Then chill it. Drizzle the left over caramel over the bowl to create a "bird cage". Carefully remove and place over the flan.

My wife makes flan frequently, but she is very careful. Hot caramel is truly dangerous. If you slosh a half a cup over the edge of the pan and onto your bare feet, you're gonna' visit the hospital.

Gary said...

What's not to like about having sugar and fat be your primary ingredients!?!?

:-)

Mike Impallaria said...

Is this recipe able to be halved, or will it screw up the turn out ?

Marjan Radman said...

Respect as always.
Two questions:
1. Remekin size
2. Silk pad?
but presentation skills, just amazing!

Mark Anderson said...

This would be the perfect dessert for my grand-daughter's 15th birthday--such a sweet girl.

Can I make this a day in advance, keeping it refrigerated, etc?

Chef John said...

Yes, you can make a day ahead!

The ramekins are 7oz i believe. Silpat is a non-stick baking mat!

Cynthia Larco said...

You are so great Chef John. I am fairly new to your sit/blog but I love it so much its my second homepage tab. Thank you!

Paul said...

I'm inspired!

I'm going to steep a cinnamon stick in the milk. I will stick a thin slice of apple to the caramel in the bottom of the ramekin. Once done I will brulee a fresh slice of apple to the custard and then brulee the apple!

John Yeomans said...

ok so just before you cut away from the sugar melting it looked as tho jabba the hut showed up in the pan....just saying...

Dereck Jones said...

I placed a 'very thinly sliced' peice of Starfruit on top of the carmal, before pouring in the custard! The presentation, with the added sugar crown and sugar coated raspberries on the side was unbelievable!

Dereck Jones said...

I placed a very thinly sliced piece of Starfruit on top of the caramel, before filling with the custard. The presentation, with the added sugar crown and sugar coated raspberries on the side was unbelievably amazing!

Daniel Levine said...

When I made this, the sugar bruleed at the bottom of the dish. What did I do wrong?

Chef John said...

bruleed? what do you mean?

momo said...

can i leave out the Grand Marnier?? because i cant get it in my country!! chef john you are simply amazing btw.

Quaz Drak said...

Is Grand Marnier a ''must have'' ingrediens? i'm just asking because i don't have Grand Marnier. Can I use something else as a substitute?

Falcatrua said...

Hello Chef!Thank your for this amazing recipe!It's possible to use Cointreau instead Grand Marnier?

Daniel Levine said...

By bruleed I mean hard (like the top of a creme brulee)

Johannes Tripolt said...

i don't know what i did wrong, but my creme wasn't silkysmooth but more like very fine cottage cheese with a strong egg taste - help?

Chef John said...

That only means one thing, it was cooked too long.

Gsweb8 said...

Holy wow. Watched the vid, checked the pantry and whipped this up last night. Couldn't be any easier. Here's a tip....make the custard first, then melt - and do not burn - the sugar. Patience ia a virtue. Easy does it. Even did the artsy-sugar thing. My wife was freaked out...it's her favorite desert and in 29 years of marriage she's only ever had it in a restaurant. Now I have become a slave to her desert desires, and, hey after 29 years, that's ok by me. Chef John....YOU ARE THE MAN!!!

Glista said...

I did everything perfectly.. and let it cool to room temp.. put in fridge for 4 or 5 hours.. and yet almost all of the caramelized sugar was as hard as a rock and stayed in the ramekin. There was none spreading all over the top and sides like the video.

I had a feeling this would happen... what should I have done? What did you do Gsweb8?

Locomotive_breath said...

Hi Chef

I have NEVER met a flan I didn't like, so making it myself with you as the guide was a no-brainer. Made this on Friday and it was a big success. My caramel did seizing a bit in the ramekins so I didn't get as much liquid as you did, but the custard itself was fantastic. My wife loved and she isn't even all that fond of flan. And I'm sure you will be pleased to know that not only did I make the flan using your recipe, even the creme fraiche was made 2 days ago per your recipe. My kitchen is turning into a "inspired by Chef John" kitchen because I made your famous chimichuri sauce last night.

Enjoy the vacation.

Anna Berman said...

Hello Glista. Chef John is away on a well deserved vacation and I'll be answering questions meanwhile. From what you described, it sounds like you might have overcooked the caramel in the pan. If not, it helps to briefly dip the ramekins in hot water right before releasing the flan. The water will help melt the caramel just enough to loosen it up.

Erik Trainer said...

Wonderful recipe. Everything came out perfectly, except my caramel tasted bitter.

The only thing I can think of is that I burned the caramel in the sauce pan. Any thoughts?

Anna Berman said...

Hello Erik. Chef John is away on a well deserved vacation and I'll be answering questions meanwhile. I think you are right. It is possible that you have slightly burned and overcooked the caramel sauce in the pan. That would explain the bitter taste of caramel. Give it another try!

springbank said...

seems you used a tad bit more of the G Marnier than 1/2 teaspoon.

springbank said...

Made it for Easter (with the 1/2 t.) and everybody loved it. Pretty astounded on the ease of preparation. Thanks for presenting it!

Tae Onoe said...

how would one turn creme caramel into a citron (lemon) creme caramel?

Clock.Watcher48 said...

I have never been intimidated by anything as much as I was caramelizing sugar for the first time but the dessert was amazing! I will definitely do this again.

Deemo Golkar said...

Hey Chef John, I was wondering if there was a substitute for orange cognac.

Riapprendere said...

Can I use table cream instead of creme freich?

Chef John said...

Yes!

Robert D. said...

Chef John, what is the substitute of crème fraiche? Greetings from Poland! :)

Chef John said...

sour cream will work too

Lizzie said...

I don't like the taste of sour cream and I find the greek yogurt has a very similar texture without the sour taste so would I be able to use plain greek yogurt as a substitute for crème fraiche?

Chef John said...

Should be okay, just lower fat, so not sure about the texture.

Kristijan Kowalsky said...

Chef John,

I am trying to make bigger portion (2x) and in big pyrex bowl. Should I increase temperature? I tested and while center was perfect edges were little bit crumbly.

Btw. combining it with sweet muscat wine works perfectly.

Thank you very much for your effort.

Kris

Chef John said...

No, temp would be same but cooking time will increase. Not sure by how much.

Kristijan Kowalsky said...

It took almost around 130mins for it to be done. But I think I should pull it out around 90-100 mins and let it finish cooking outside while cooling.

I will try again later and post my findings.

Thank you for fast response.

Kris

Jeffrey Kwok said...

Hey Chef John!

Thanks for this recipe! Successfully made this just recently using creme fraiche of course. The only part that was a bit off was the dark caramel. It tasted a bit bitter, could have possibly burned it a little. Any tips to avoid this? For the most part I followed the video directions exactly and waited for the caramel to start bubbling.

Thanks for your time!

Jeffrey Kwok said...

Hey Chef John!

Thanks for this recipe! Successfully made this just recently using creme fraiche of course. The only part that was a bit off was the dark caramel. It tasted a bit bitter, could have possibly burned it a little. Any tips to avoid this? For the most part I followed the video directions exactly and waited for the caramel to start bubbling.

Thanks for your time!

Chef John said...

Just don't cook so dark next time, but it does have a bitter sweet taste.

Jeremy Hale said...

Chef John,

EVERY single time I've made this (4 times now) the caramel has had a burnt/bitter taste to it. I have no idea why I'm burning it, or how. I'm constantly moving it around while it's melting, I've tried a variety of heat settings (low/med low/med). The caramel always comes out looking perfectly golden-brown like yours, but the taste is always bitter/burnt. Any recommendations or should I just move on to a different dessert?

Chef John said...

If its the same color, then you are doing it perfectly! You simply don't like that flavor. It happens! Move on to something else.

Claes Henriksson said...

What happens if you don't add cooking spray?

Mastani said...

Can I use whipped cream instead?

Chef John said...

You can use "whipping cream" but not whipped cream.

Jennifer Ip said...

If you don't add cooking spray, the flan will come out looking ripped because the sides and the bottom will stick. (Guess how I found out? =P)

I replaced the creme frache with sour cream, although I wasn't paying attention when I was adding the eggs (added an extra egg instead of just the yolk)and it came out tasting eggy. Also didn't help that I removed the Grand Marnier. Eheh. But I was honestly impressed with the recipe either way. I tried a different one and it turned out horrible. I'll be trying this again, probably with whipping cream and report back.

Buzz Editor said...

Dear Chef, I want to make this dessert for 6 people. Do you recommend to make 1 big flan? And how many eggs do I have to add extra? Thanks.

Chef John said...

double recipe and make 2 extra!

lilsnukems said...

Just made two servings of this today. Super easy and so good!!! I've made it once before and find that it needs about 4 hours to chill in the fridge to give it that great texture. I also think it tastes less 'eggy' after being refrigerated for at least 4 hours. I was even able to make some pulled caramel garnish just like you showed.

I have been a follower of yours for a few years now. I love your videos and your sense of humor. Thank you for taking the time to share your talents with the world!

Unknown said...

Chef John,

Can I use Cointreau instead of Grand Marnier?

Thanks for the wonderful video recipe!

KitKatKate said...

Fantastic recipe.
Didn't have Grand Marnier and used Cointreau instead.
Followed everything else exactly.
Texture and taste was amazing.
I'll definitely be making this again.
Thanks Chef John!

Dana said...

Chef John-
If i wanted to use whipping cream-do i whip it first and then add it or do i add it in as a liquid and beat it with the rest of the ingredients until it forms together?

thank you for your time.

Chef John said...

no, don't beat! just add like the other dairy ing. Enjoy!

Alexandria Cast said...

I just made this dessert, homemade creme fraiche included, and it was the most DELICIOUS thing ever; however, I used a limoncello instead of the Grand Marnier and it came out beautifully. I can't wait to use the creme fraiche in EVERYTHING.

B.B. said...

Turned out wonderfully for me
http://i.imgur.com/W1v37pO.jpg?1

Claudia Carlos said...

Love you chef! I bought the ramekins, creme fraiche and the Grand Marnier.. Had some friends for dinner and... Simply delicious! BTW, I made them with "cajeta" instead of the caramel and yummy! For dinner: your Veracruz-Style Red Snap! My guests were all impressed!

Long Nguyen said...

I made this using lactose free milk and cream without a problem! :)