Crème Caramel

From Eagranie Yuh | Images by Barbara Cameron

Eggs work their binding magic in crème caramel, which is little more than a rich custard poured over caramel, then gently baked in a water bath. This bistro standby gets an urban twist with the addition of local bitters, which adds a touch of spice and moodiness. For best results with caramel, use a pot with a light-coloured bottom so you can see the caramel colour. And to clean a caramel-crusted pot, just soak for an hour in cold water.

Makes six ½-cup servings

  • 3 Tbsp water
  • ½ tsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup + 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • generous pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp Bittered Sling plum and root beer bitters*

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place six half-cup ramekins in a baking pan lined with a tea towel, and set a kettle to boil.

In a small saucepan, combine the water and lemon juice. Pour 2/3 cup of sugar into the middle of the saucepan, allowing it to make a melty sort of pyramid. Do not stir. Cook over medium heat for 7–10 minutes. When it turns light golden, slowly swirl the pan until the caramel turns deep amber. Quickly divide among the ramekins, swirling each one to coat the bottom.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks, remaining 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar, and salt.

In a medium saucepan, combine the cream and milk. Cook over medium heat until steamy, and bubbles just begin to form at the sides of the pan. Slowly pour into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that you do not scramble the eggs. Finally, whisk in the bitters. Divide evenly among the ramekins, and cover each one with a piece of foil. 

Pour enough hot water to come to within 2 centimetres of the tops of the ramekins, and bake for about 30 minutes. The custards should still be a bit soft, with the slightest jiggle in the middle. They may look a bit speckled from the bitters floating to the surface; you won’t notice it when they’ve been upended. Transfer to a wire rack for 30 minutes, and then refrigerate for 3–4 hours (or overnight) to chill completely.

To unmold, run a sharp knife around the edge of the ramekin. Dip the bottom of the ramekin in a bowl of hot water for 5 seconds to loosen the caramel. Place a serving dish on top of the ramekin and quickly invert—you should end up with a bronze-topped custard in a pool of caramel. Allow to warm to room temperature for 30 minutes, then enjoy.

* You can find Bittered Sling bitters at private liquor stores and markets around the Lower Mainland. Beyond making your cocktails snazzy, they’re also a nice addition to sparkling water with citrus.